Do you have woefully embarrassing memories of your mother trying to explain periods to you?
Do you cringe at the prospect of having to have this discussion with your own daughter?
As someone who’s been talking to tweens about periods pretty much non-stop for the past four years, and as the mother of two tween girls myself, I like to think that I’ve picked up a few hints and tips on how to navigate “the talk”.
I thought I might share some of my favourites, in the hope that it helps some parents out there to navigate these talks a bit more confidently. So here goes:
1: Talk early and talk often
Back in the “olden days” we used to be hauled into a private room by one of our parents and sat down to have “the talk”. But luckily this is changing now. How much new, big information can you fully take in from one single chat? The old notion of a single “big talk” is outdated. It doesn’t give kids time to digest and process information, or time to think of and ask questions they might have.
Puberty changes are often happening earlier than you think as well, so chatting early and having smaller “bite-sized” discussions more regularly can help kids get important information early in their puberty journey, as well as regular opportunities to ask questions.
2: Don’t make a big deal about it
There’s no need to find the perfect time or environment to have a chat – there’s no need to preface a conversation with a big “this is important!” statement. Keep your tone conversational and light. Children can easily get anxious or nervous if it seems like a big chat is coming – which might mean they get defensive, or don’t engage in the conversation as much as they might otherwise.
3: Talk side-by-side, not face-to-face
If there’s one thing I’ve learned about kids and teens, it’s that nothing shuts them down faster than someone sitting opposite them, staring them down! It’s like being sent to the Principal’s office! So attempt to engage them in conversations while you’re sitting side by side on the couch, or while driving them around in the car. Car chats are completely under-rated!
.com.4: Find natural teaching moments in your everyday life:
Are you buying tampons at the supermarket? Then mention – “oop, better grab some tampons as my period is due to start soon”. Or are you feeling a bit PMS-ish? “I’m feeling a bit moody today, I think my period is due tomorrow.” By talking openly about periods and puberty, we can help to remove the stigma and taboo around these topics. It may feel foreign for us at first, but that’s just because society has so ingrained in us the notion that “we don’t talk about these things!!”. It’s up to us as a generation to break that notion down.
5: Answer questions factually, simply and in the moment:
We can often get nervous when answering the curly questions kids have. That’s often because we feel like we need to answer that question with “the big talk” I mentioned in point one. But my advice is to offer a brief, factual explanation – eg. Question: “What’s a period” – Answer: “It’s when a woman has blood coming out of her vagina for about a week, it happens once a month to most teenagers and women.” That’s it! Leave the answer there for now – if they look confused – you can ask “Do you want to know more about this?” – or you might ask them a follow up question “What makes you ask that?”, or “Have you been learning about periods somewhere?” – But it’s likely they might come up with their own follow up question – or perhaps will just say “okay”, shrug and walk away! Like I said in point one – you don’t need this moment to be the “big talk” – perhaps it’s just the first of many little talks!
So there you go – I hope these tips prove helpful for you in the “not a big chat – just one of many smaller chats” you’re about to have! If you haven’t already, make sure you download our Period Products Explained eBook and have a read through with your daughter or the young woman you’re supporting. It has been specifically written to be factual, straight forward and free from potentially confusing language – so it’s especially great for girls with autism, other neurodivergence, or intellectual disability; it provides a great knowledge base for your child to then choose which products she might like to use when she first gets her period.
If you have any questions about the eBook, please make a comment, or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org and let us know.