Talking to your Child about Periods: Promoting Open Dialogue
Puberty is an important phase in a young persons life, marked by various physical and emotional changes. One significant milestone during this time is the onset of menstruation or periods in girls.However, discussing this topic openly with your child can be challenging due to social taboos, cultural beliefs, and personal discomfort.
In this blog, we will explore the importance of talking to your child about periods, the benefits of breaking the stigma surrounding menstruation, and effective strategies to educate and support teenagers through this natural biological process.
Breaking the Stigma
Historically, menstruation has been surrounded by societal stigma and secrecy. It has been considered a topic that should be hidden and discussed only among women. This silence and lack of open conversation often lead to misinformation, fear, and shame among young girls. By breaking the stigma and encouraging open dialogue, we can empower young people to embrace their bodies and navigate menstruation with confidence.
Menstruation is a natural bodily function in which the lining of the uterus sheds monthly, resulting in bleeding through the vagina. This process usually starts between the ages of 9 and 16, although the average age of menarche (the first occurrence of menstruation) is around 12. It is important to note that every girl's experience with menstruation is unique, both in terms of timing and symptoms.
Benefits of Talking Openly about Periods
- Knowledge and Empowerment: Educating our childrent about periods equips them with accurate information, empowering them to understand the changes happening in their bodies. Knowledge helps demystify menstruation and fosters a positive attitude towards reproductive health.
- Normalizing Experiences: Open conversations about periods assure young people that menstruation is a natural process experienced by billions of women worldwide. By normalizing these experiences, we can alleviate feelings of embarrassment or shame associated with periods.
- Reducing Anxiety and Fear: Lack of knowledge often leads to anxiety and fear about the unknown. By addressing concerns and answering questions, we can help alleviate anxiety related to periods, allowing our children to approach this phase of life with confidence.
- Building Self-Confidence: Discussing periods openly boosts self-confidence as children feel more prepared and knowledgeable about their bodies. This, in turn, can positively impact their overall self-esteem and body image.
Effective Strategies for Conversations
- Start Early: Begin conversations about menstruation before the onset of puberty. This allows children to become familiar with the concept, making the transition smoother when they experience their first period.
- Create a Safe and Comfortable Environment: Choose a quiet and private space where both you and your child feel at ease. This will help foster open communication and make your child feel comfortable discussing personal matters.
- Use Age-Appropriate Language: Tailor your language and level of detail to the childs age and maturity level. Use simple terms initially and gradually introduce more complex concepts as they grow older.
- Address Common Concerns: Discuss common concerns, such as the duration and frequency of periods, the importance of menstrual hygiene, and how to manage discomfort associated with menstruation. Be prepared to address questions about menstrual products, like pads, tampons, or menstrual cups and explain their usage and availability.
- Provide Accurate Information: Share scientifically accurate information about menstruation, including the menstrual cycle, hormonal changes, and the purpose of menstruation. Clarify any misconceptions or myths that the teenager may have encountered.
- Normalize Menstrual Symptoms: Talk about the common symptoms associated with menstruation, such as cramps, mood swings, and bloating. Emphasize that these symptoms are normal and vary from person to person.
- Encourage Self-Care: Teach teenagers the importance of self-care during menstruation, including maintaining good hygiene, eating a balanced diet, staying hydrated and getting enough rest. Discuss strategies for managing discomfort, such as using heat packs or taking pain relievers if needed.
- Involve Other Support Systems: Encourage teenagers to reach out to trusted adults, such as parents, teachers, or healthcare providers for additional support and information. Emphasize the availability of school nurses or counselors who can provide guidance if necessary.
Some government department and reputable sites have resources on puberty which can assist in ensuring you cover topics your child should know about. One of our favorites is by the WA Department of Health Puberty Booklet (PDF). It covers information on Puberty for Boys and Girls.
Talking to young people about periods is essential for their overall well-being and self-confidence. By breaking the stigma surrounding menstruation, we can provide our youth with accurate information, normalize their experiences and equip them to embrace their bodies. Creating a safe and open environment for discussions enables teenagers to navigate this natural biological process with confidence and without shame or fear.
- Johns Hopkins Medicine. (n.d.). The Basics of Puberty. Retrieved from https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/wellness-and-prevention/the-basics-of-puberty
- The Royal Children's Hospital Melbourne. (2020). Talking to Your Child About Menstruation. Retrieved from https://www.rch.org.au/kidsinfo/fact_sheets/Talking_to_your_child_about_menstruation/
- Harvard Health Publishing. (2020). Talking to Children About Menstruation. Retrieved from https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/talking-to-children-about-menstruation-2019030716138