If you have a daughter who’s approaching puberty, you probably have a mix of emotions and questions. How is my baby growing so fast? What do I tell her about her period? Will I embarrass her?
Maybe you’re thinking back to the first time you found out about periods–that time in middle school when you went with the girls to learn about your “changing bodies” and the boys went to play a rousing game of basketball. Or maybe your mom left a health book out in the open for you to discover and left it at that. And you acknowledge that your parents did the best they could for you with the information they had. But now that you have more information, you want to support your daughter. You’re just not quite sure how.
It may feel uncomfortable or awkward due to the period stigma that’s been around for centuries (thanks, patriarchy). But talking to your daughter about her period is essential.
Mom, if you’re looking to break the menstrual stigma, if you’re tired of being shamed for being “hormonal” (duhh, we are!), and if you don’t want your daughters to grow up in the same world that made you feel gross for menstruating, these tips are for you.
Dad, if you want to do anything you can to support your daughter in the fight to normalize menstruation, read on!
Here are three reasons why it’s important to talk to your daughters about their periods, and three tips for how to do it.
It’s time to normalize periods by starting the conversations early
Normalizing periods can be as simple as answering your child’s period questions like you would any other question. Try not to react surprised or shocked. Kids are smart, and they’ll pick up on those reactions. By supporting their curiosity, you begin the journey to normalizing discussions on menstruation.
And if you think it’s too early to talk about periods with your daughter? Think again. Many parents find that having the period talk with their daughters shouldn’t be one conversation (this is backed up by Kids Health). Rather, it should be ongoing conversations that can start as early as whenever your children start raising questions.
Melisa Holmes, MD says, “It’s never too young to start these conversations.” If your child starts asking questions about reproductive parts early, you can give age appropriate answers. You don’t need to wait until your daughter approaches puberty, especially since girls are getting their periods earlier.
So if you’ve just come home from the grocery store and your 4-, 5-, or 6-year-old asks about that box of maxi pads, you can tell her something like, “Every month, mommy bleeds out of her vagina for a little time. It’s normal and nothing to be scared of. It means that mommy’s body is doing a good job!”
If you haven’t talked with your daughter about periods yet and she’s approaching puberty, don’t worry. Take her aside and tell her what will happen in her body soon.
And don’t feel ashamed to use the word “menstruation.” In Chella Quint’s book for young menstruators, Own Your Period, she tells her readers that the word “menstruation” is “multilingual, medical, useful, and clear.” You can even gift your daughter this book to read on her own!
Educating your daughter on periods can help combat her fear
If your parents didn’t give you adequate information on puberty (and remember, we’re blaming the patriarchy), you probably felt terrified when you saw that first gush of blood in your underwear.
What’s going on? Why am I bleeding? Am I hurt?
What a scary thing for a young child to experience without any context!
On an episode of the Well Woman podcast, host Jema Lee advises telling your children the what, why, and how of periods before menarche (a person’s first period).
You might be wondering how to explain a period to your daughter. Start by giving her the facts. Explain what a period is and why it’s important. Use medically accurate information and real language like vagina, vulva, and uterus. It’s important to go beyond you bleed once every month. Knowing what’s going on in your cycle can give you information like whether or not your hormones are balanced or even if you’re ovulating, and so much more. (And if you didn’t know all this, keep reading for resources to learn more!)
If you see your daughter starting to cringe, it’s okay to acknowledge that. You might even share that you felt the same way when you were her age. And remind her that there are no silly or dumb questions.
Here’s a tip from a real live parent and Reddit user JuneRhythm1985 for making things less awkward and allowing your daughter space to process this new information: give her a notebook where she can write down her questions and feelings. Tell her that her feelings are valid and it’s okay to have a mix of emotions about what’s going on. And reassure her that you’re there (Mom and Dad) to support her.
Menstruation education in schools is lacking–be your daughter’s go-to puberty person
What do you remember learning about the menstrual cycle in school? If all that comes to mind is your cheeks going warm when words like “vagina” and “menstruation” were thrown around, you’re not alone (darn you, pesky menstrual stigma!). Not much has changed since then.
According to Marni Sommers, a menstrual health expert, “Only 30 states and Washington, D.C., mandate sexual education in schools, but not all of them require medical accuracy.”
What? No medical accuracy?!
Now that we know that schools are still not getting sexual education right, why not be your daughter’s go-to period pal? Her menstruator educator, if you will.
This may require some research on your part. If you feel like your menstruation knowledge is lacking, it might be time to relearn some of the basics. After all, you can’t have the period talk with your daughter if you don’t even know what’s going on in your own body! (this is especially for you, Dad)
You can brush up on your reproductive health knowledge by reading a book like Taking Charge Of Your Fertility, learning how to track your own cycle and taking a course with a fertility awareness instructor, or checking out a podcast like Fertility Friday.
If you really want to go the extra mile for yourself and your daughter? Check out a few of our favorite resources for learning about all things periods and reproductive health: Our Bodies, Ourselves by the Boston Women’s Health Book Collective, The Period Repair Manual by Lara Briden, Period Power by Maisie Hill, and Women Code by Alisa Vitti.
And if talking to your daughter about periods makes you uncomfortable? Odds are that she can read that. Sit with your feelings and ask yourself why you feel uncomfortable. Then teach yourself the facts and get those conversations going.
If you still feel unsure and need extra support, you and your menstruator can join our next Period Talk class. You’ll learn all you need to know about anatomy and the menstrual cycle, and you’ll get to ask all your burning questions (anonymously) in a judgment-free space. Click here to get notified of upcoming dates.
Now that you’re ready to tackle how to explain a period to your daughter, you might be thinking how do I celebrate my daughter’s first period?
Why not throw a first period party for your daughter and her friends?
Periods are bloody awesome, and your daughter’s first period should be something to celebrate. You can replace your daughter’s embarrassment and fear with a Bloody Awesome celebration.
With the Bloody Awesome Box, you’ll get everything you need to plan and have a successful first period party. So get ahead of the game and order one here!
Samantha regards herself as a woman with a lot of passion. Instead of frantically ranting about her interests to randos on the street (though she kinda wants to but her social anxiety and societal norms won’t let her), she writes. She spent her mid-twenties teaching English in faraway lands, and now she spends her days avoiding the ungodly heat of North Florida. She’s a freelance copywriter writing for natural femtech and holistic health businesses. When she isn’t writing about the power of the menstrual cycle, fertility awareness, or pregnancy loss (all topics she has experience with), you can find her reading, crocheting, or unabashedly binging any of the 90 Day Fiancé shows.