Having the “period talk” with your child could be worse than the “sex talk,” depending on how squeamish you are and how prepared you feel. You’re hoping to give your child the tools they need to take care of their body while not scaring them. It’s a tricky balance to strike, but here are some things you can do to prepare ahead of time.
- Stop worrying about “not knowing enough.”
This fear is really just a distraction. It’s standing in your way of actually taking in the information you want to share and beginning the conversation. When you first talk to your child about menstruation, they might feel shocked or overwhelmed, so they might not come to you with questions at first. This is almost definitely going to be an ongoing conversation.
But it’s good to prepare yourself for this conversation by brushing up on your knowledge. If you also menstruate, odds are you’re pretty prepared already, even if you feel nervous. The Nemours Foundation has a comprehensive, but not overwhelming, guide to menstruation that you can use to brush up your knowledge base. The makers of the Clue app have a more inclusive and detailed guide that I recommend for if any complicated or specific questions come up.
Trust yourself and what you already know—if your child ends up asking a question you don’t have the answer to, use it as an opportunity to learn together.
- Create a safe and comfortable environment for your child to come to you.
Your child might feel the need to come to you and ask questions before you have talked to them about menstruation. But, in order for them to do this at all, you need to make sure they know they can come to you with questions.
Having an open line of communication with your child is a task that begins really early in their life, but conversations around medicine and bodies can be complicated and scary. It’s a good idea to let your child know they can come to you with questions about menstruation when they are ready.
Most importantly, avoid gendered language where you can. Your child might be going through a silent struggle of figuring out their gender identity; learning about periods can add to that stress and confusion. Even if they do identify as a girl, it sends a good message to them that you understand not all women have vaginas (or even periods) and that some men do.
- Give your child the information they need without scaring them.
My mother tormented me with what felt like the “threat” of my impending menstruation. It’s going to be very important that you don’t say, “You’re going to get your period soon!” to your child often, if ever. This might fill them with a sense of dread and fear. Menstruation shouldn’t be scary, but for a lot of kids, finding out that they will be bleeding every month for the next 30+ years of their life is slightly scary and intimidating.
Let them know that periods are totally normal. It might help to name some people in their life that also menstruate to highlight how commonplace it is. Your child may have already been receiving negative messages from friends and media about how much periods “suck”—offset that by giving them some anecdotes about people who enjoy getting their period.
Most transitions in life can feel scary; periods aren’t any different from that. But like other life transitions, menstruation can also be beautiful and momentous.
- Give them some options.
While it’s probably not time to begin discussing things like birth control options that can stop periods, it’s definitely time to discuss what options you have to manage period blood.
The most popular disposable options are pads and tampons. It’s probably a good idea to give your child several options so they can figure out what works for them. However, I’m going to recommend that for pads you give them anything that’s size “regular” and has wings, and for tampons, anything with a plastic applicator (because it makes insertion easier). Some brands of tampons offer packages with a variety of sizes—try one of these, making sure it includes sizes “light” and “regular”.
Gen Z is known for being very socially and environmentally conscious, so your child might already know that they want to use reusable products rather than disposable ones. Your reusable options include: menstrual cups (which they should wait a year or two to try out), washable cloth pads, and period underwear. Joyja recently released a line of period underwear specifically for teens. Your child can choose from several different cuts and patterns—and the best part is, it feels just like wearing regular underwear. Period panties are a great option that allows your child to manage their menstrual blood without any intimidating gear.
Try not to worry—when in doubt, remind your child that they’re not alone; together you can figure out what will work best for them.