The First Period Conversation
The first period. Every person with a uterus will experience it at some point. However, the introduction to one’s period can come with a lot of feelings. Some may feel excited and anticipate its arrival. Others may feel nervous and embarrassed to have to deal with it. As a parent, you may feel unsure about how to broach this conversation and introduce your growing teenager to the world of periods. Here are some tips to have an open conversation about starting a period and introducing life as a menstruating human.
Start the conversation early
The average age that a human’s menstrual cycle starts is around 12 years old. However, for some, it can start as early as 9 or 10 years of age. About 2 years before this begins, puberty changes will begin. Puberty is a time when the body begins to transition into a more mature state. Your growing child may start to develop breasts, pubic hair, and vaginal discharge during this time. When this transition begins, this is a great time to introduce the topic of the first menstrual period along with the other changes that come along with puberty. The sooner you prepare your child for the coming experience, the easier it will be to build their confidence and ability to handle all that goes along with a period. Puberty can occur at different ages, so even if they haven’t started their period, their peers may have begun. This can prompt curiosity about what to expect. Encouraging open lines of communication to discuss this topic allows them to get accurate and sex-positive information about puberty and the coming menstrual period.
Erase shame and embarrassment
The human body is pretty amazing and should be celebrated. As we talk about our period, this is a great opportunity to celebrate how strong, resilient, and specially-designed it is. Periods and puberty are nothing to be embarrassed about, so period talks do not have to be awkward! When talking about the body, focus on how menstruation is a natural function that allows for health and future fertility. Breaking down stigma and shame around the period starts at home. A great way to avoid any potential shame or embarrassment is to include all members of the household, including those without a uterus. Consider having opportunities for both parents to be present when talking about the menstrual period. It is also important to initiate these conversations even for those who will never have a period, such as siblings in the home who are starting puberty.
When starting this conversation, ask your child what they already know about periods so far. Not only will this help you understand what they have already heard, but it will help to correct any wrong information during your discussion. There is so much incorrect information about the human body and menstrual cycles. When having this conversation, stick to the facts and keep it simple. Use correct anatomical words & terminology when discussing what a period is, why it happens, and how your child may feel around that time of the month. Your child may fear the concept of bleeding each month and may equate it to being sick or hurt. Use this opportunity to emphasize that they can do most everything they would normally do during their period, like activities and sports.
Be hands on when discussing period supplies together
It is helpful to come prepared to this conversation with practical tips for what to expect before and during a menstrual cycle. Bring along supplies so that your child can touch and see products they will use when their cycle starts. Help them to learn how to properly use the products and dispose of them. The Honey Pot Co’s First Period Ritual is a great menstruation starter kit. It includes both regular and overnight non-herbal pads, pantiliners, sensitive wipes, and even an on-the-go pad case. These products are not only made with certified organic cotton, but are also gentle, non-irritating, and sensitive for your child’s skin. By having this starter kit on-hand, you can ensure preparedness, especially if their first period comes when away from home or their caregiver. The earlier that your child feels comfortable with menstrual products, the more confident they will feel about handling their monthly cycle.
Period products have come a long way and there is a wide array of options. Expose your child to all the various options. This empowers them to have the knowledge they need to make the best choice of them. Consider planning a shopping trip to make them feel comfortable with finding their own supplies and eventually making the purchases on their own.
Empower them to handle their own period each month
The transition into having a period is a huge step into young adulthood and something to be proud of. Use your conversation about the menstrual cycle to empower your growing child to care for their body and health. Avoid lecturing but rather encourage a dialogue about these topics. Don’t be afraid to reintroduce this topic more than once. Teach your child about tracking their period to avoid accidents and to prepare for each month’s arrival. Finally, avoid focusing on the negative symptoms like cramping and pain. It is best to talk about ways they can get ahead of any possible symptoms.
Having one’s first period is a huge step. And so is having the period talk. Learning how to approach these conversations can take the shame out of this normal transition and also empower your developing child to love the skin they are in. When the signs of puberty start, have the period talk early and often. Don’t forget to have this conversation with all humans in the household, whether they will menstruate or not. And remember, our bodies are something to be celebrated. So, cheers to this milestone!
Want to learn more about how to prepare your child for their next phase of life? Read Talking to your Child about Vaginal Care