Dear Cici,

My friend’s daughter just got her period and I’m embarrassed to admit I haven’t had “the talk” with my own daughter. How do I start this conversation and help my daughter through this special time?

Bashful in Kula

Dear Bashful in Kula,

 No need to feel embarrassed, talking about getting your period can be an uncomfortable subject. Many of us have grown up in a culture where stigma and shame associated with menstruation are common and reinforced in the ways we talk and don’t talk about it.  

Start by asking your daughter what she already knows about getting her period. These days kids have access to way more information than we did growing up and whether she learns about it from social media or hears about it from her friends, it’s likely that your daughter has a lot more information than you realize. Be ready to answer questions or clarify details. Explain all the things that come along with getting your period (PMS, cramps, etc) but don’t focus too much on the negative as not everyone will experience those things.  

Be aware of your own beliefs and the language you use to talk about menstruation. Aunt Flo, shark-week, the curse, for example. Are you using terms that convey shame or discomfort with the topic? Remember, we’re trying to challenge the stigma associated with getting your period. If you’re embarrassed about it, how do you think your kid feels? 

Helping your child to be prepared ahead of time will give them confidence. Talk with her about the all various products available for people with periods. Consider assembling a small emergency kit that she can keep in her backpack in case her first period arrives without warning and encourage her to share information (& supplies) with others. Trans and non-binary kids will face additional social/emotional challenges during puberty and will benefit from straightforward, sensitive discussion of how they want to navigate getting their period.

Conversations about menstruation don’t have to be limited to moms and their daughters. 

It’s important for dads to feel empowered to talk about this with their daughters and it’s a great idea to teach your sons about periods too. Menstruation is a part of the human experience and there’s no reason for males to be uninformed about how female bodies work.

Discussions about puberty and the physical/emotional changes your child can expect should begin well before they begin to experience them. But don’t worry, it’s never too late. The most important thing you can do is to be open and available.

If you have a question for Dear Cici, email it to [email protected].