A question I get asked pretty often is how to talk to kids about sensitive subjects. Talking to our kids about their bodies, sex, pornography, dating, and consent can feel really uncomfortable, and understandably so. Studies have shown that our generation feels that our parents didn’t do a great job talking to us about these subjects. When those healthy, honest conversations weren’t modeled for us, it’s much more difficult to know what to say to our own children when the time comes. Sometimes knowing what to say and how to approach it can make all the difference. My hope is by providing you some tips will empower you to start having these discussions with your daughter. Today, I want to focus on talking to your daughters about having their period. This conversation tends to be a little more straightforward than some of the others and can be a really good place to start laying the groundwork for open dialogue about some of the more challenging topics I mentioned before. It’s also fitting since Love and XO, Julia has teamed up with TOP organic project for first period essentials! Here are a few tips and scripts for starting this conversation:
1. My first piece of advice is to get out in front of it. It’s pretty important that your daughter has an idea of what to expect during her period BEFORE it actually happens. I’ve had girls come in to see me who were more or less traumatized by blood coming out of their vagina. Most were certain they were dying or were too embarrassed to tell anyone what was happening. Having some context to the physiological events that occur during our period can help to mitigate the horror and/or humiliation that can sometimes come with it. Also, girls talk, and it’s probably better they hear about it from you than their 11-year-old peer who read about periods on Google.
2. When you’re having the talk, use simple but anatomically correct language. Say vagina, uterus, fallopian tubes, all of it! Be matter of fact, like you were when you taught her how to tie her shoes or brush her teeth. This is just something that happens to our bodies and there’s no reason for there to be any shame or embarrassment attached to it. Here is a sample scripts:
“As your body grows and matures, certain things inside your body start to change. We call that puberty. As girls, we have body parts where babies are conceived and can grow. I might be using some words you’ve never heard before, so let me know if you have any questions. We have two ovaries and they’re filled with eggs. When you get old enough, every month one of the eggs travels through your fallopian tube and into your uterus, where it hangs out for awhile and waits to get fertilized. When the egg isn’t fertilized, the fresh blood that was storing up in our uterus to be ready to help the fertilized egg grow ends us coming out of our bodies through our vaginas and that’s what we call our period. When you have your period, you’ll have it once a month for about 3-5 days. When it happens, I’ll teach you how to use pads and eventually tampons. Also, because your uterus is pushing out the blood, sometimes we can have cramps. If that happens, let me know and I can give you some medication that will help.”
Simple, straightforward, and honest. It’s usually best to avoid terms like “Aunt Flo” or other nicknames because it adds to the taboo-ness of the topic. Kids don’t need things to be dressed up, they usually prefer an honest approach. Just ask them!
3. Give her a resource she can look at in private and make yourself available for any questions. I’m a big fan of The Care and Keeping of You Books put out by American Girl. There are two of them, one for younger girls and one for older girls. They’re simple but full of important information written in a way that’s easy for girls to digest. They’ve also got a lot of information on healthy habits in general. Give her the books and let her know that you are happy to answer any questions.
4. Let her know that she doesn’t have to stop being a kid. If your daughter still enjoys playing with dolls, or dress-up, or other forms of play that are considered for “little kids,” having her period doesn’t mean those things need to end. When we tell our daughter having her period means she’s turning into a woman, sometimes that gets misinterpreted as meaning the end of childhood. Make sure she understands it doesn’t have to mean that at all!
5. Stay calm, try not to get flustered, and be open to wherever the conversation leads. The more uncomfortable we seem, the more our daughters will pick up on the fact that we are not who they should go to when it comes to having difficult conversations about their bodies or other confusing developments in adolescence. You are a much safer resource than Google, and you want her to know it and feel it!!
This is a time in our daughter’s lives that is full of mixed feelings, for both mother and daughter! It’s okay for both of you to feel excited and sad and anxious and confused, and any other emotion that comes up. The best thing to do is keep the lines of communication open and help her feel supported, through having her period and beyond.