Talking About Menstruation With Your Daughter

If you have a daughter, then you probably realize that you will need to talk about menstruation with her at some point.  There are many questions that mothers and fathers have about this conversation.  When should you talk to your daughter?  How should you talk to her?  What does she need to know?  Here are a number of suggestions to help you with this important, but sometimes awkward and difficult, situation.

Don't Ignore The Issue

Some parents hope that their daughters will simply learn about menstruation from their friends or from school.  While they may end up learning things this way, it doesn't absolve you, as a parent, from teaching them as well.  You want your child to be well informed and accurately informed about her changing body and to be prepared for those changes.  In general, it makes more sense for a mother to approach this topic with her daughter. However, a father can certainly do so if there is not a mother in the girl's life or if there is some other reason that the parents think it is better to do it this way.  Parents should have a brief talk with boys, as well, to explain menstruation to them.  This may be done by either parent, and might be part of a larger conversation about sex education in general.

Get Educated Yourself

Before talking to your daughter, make sure that you have all of the knowledge that you need regarding menstruation.  Make sure that you are ready for any questions that she might ask you and for any explanations that she may request.  Some common questions may include the following.  Why do only girls have their periods?  Will I have my period for the rest of my life?  How long does it last and how much blood will there be? Are tampons or pads better for me?  Do I have to stop playing sports and swimming when I have my period? Will I have cramps?  What is PMS?  

When Should We Talk?

It's often recommended to make any sex education talk take place over an extended period of time.  Rather than sitting a child down in a formal, awkward way, if you are able to discuss sex education at appropriate times, this can be a more natural approach.  Since most girls get their periods between the ages of 12 and 13, the conversation or conversations should certainly occur prior to this time.  Some girls have it as early as 9 or 10, so it is probably best to broach the subject by the age of 8 or 9.  You don't want your daughter to be surprised by her first cycle or to be fearful in any way.

What Do You Say?

Keep your tone informative and enthusiastic.  You don't want your daughter to feel that her period is a burden or a frustration that she must deal with for the next 30 or more years.  This is an exciting sign of entering womanhood and an incredible gift, as it can lead to a new life.  You'll want to explain how the cycle works, how long it lasts, how it feels, and what she can do to keep herself comfortable during this time.  You should show her tampons and pads and explain how they work.  Together, you can put a few samples of each somewhere safe for her, so that she will know where to get them when she needs them.  She should understand how her period fits into her reproductive health and into the possibility of becoming pregnant.

What Materials Should You Use?

There are many videos and books that you can buy that explain sex education and menstruation. If you feel that having extra visual support will help you, find materials that make you comfortable.  You certainly don't need to have these aids, but they can help your child to understand the process more.  You should buy pads and tampons to show to your daughter and help her to decide where to keep them, so that she will be ready when she needs them.

Tips for Talking

You may want to speak to your family doctor to get suggestions for discussing this topic with your child.  Make sure that you are ready with the facts and that you can present them in a comfortable way.  If you are embarrassed while talking about these issues with your child, you'll be sending the wrong message to her about her body and her reproductive future.  Find out if your child is going to receive sex education in school and try to coordinate your talks with the school's lessons.  You can ask your child's teacher about his/her plans and get advice from her/him.

See this as an opportunity to get closer to your child and as one of the major stepping stones in your child's development.  This is an exciting time in your life and one that can be approached with enthusiasm, humility and excitement, rather than with embarrassment or confusion.

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