Getting your period is a significant time in a young person’s life. Depending on how periods have been discussed at school, and what your kid’s friends are saying about periods, it can be something they’re desperately excited to get, or, it could be something that’s causing them a lot of stress.
Want to give guidance and be there for them? Amazing! Here are some tips we’ve got to help you start the conversation.
Just talk about it!
I was a very awkward youth who didn’t really feel comfortable discussing my period with my parents. We just didn’t talk about it, so I also never brought it up. Periods and sexual health were just glossed over at school unless you were talking about the horrors of STIs, which were, of course, discussed at length and in great detail (ah yes, the classic Catholic School Board curriculum).
I don’t even really remember my mother explicitly mentioning that she had periods, or cramps, until I was about to start my own. I felt woefully unprepared, and I also felt very nervous about asking more questions. Why hadn’t she brought it up before? Was it bad to talk about? Would I have felt differently if at some point she’d lain on the couch in front of the TV with a heating pack and complained loudly about cramps?
Mentioning periods or cramps outside of the formal context of actually teaching your kids about them will make the experience of learning feel like less of a big deal. Kids are naturally curious about pretty much everything, so if you happen to leave a box of pads out by the bathroom sink sometime, they’ll probably ask you about it. Instead of hiding them away with a sheepish grin, just mention casually “oh they’re for my/my partner’s period,” and see where it goes from there. They might not ask any follow up questions, but those kinds of interactions are great for normalizing the idea of periods!
When you’re getting ready to have a proper chat about it, try setting the stage by telling them about your own experience. Was there a then-traumatizing-now-kinda-funny moment that you can share and both laugh about? Most kids love to hear embarrassing stories about their parents. Of course, you know your kids best, so if they get really bad second-hand embarrassment, maybe bring it up a different way.
Let them know that you’re available to answer any and all questions, that no question is wrong, and mean it. Above all else, let them know that they’re supported and loved, no matter what.
An important thing to note is that it’s important to have these conversations and interactions with all your kids, even if they’re never going to have a period! The more we normalize conversations about menstruation, the less stigma will carry forward from generation to generation.
Help them put together their first period pack
New stuff is exciting for everyone! One way to both teach, and get a young person excited about this big part of their life is to help them pick out their first period products. You can talk about tampons and disposables, but we’re a little biased here and think that showing them some cool reusable pad patterns or underwear styles would be a lot of fun too. The cup is also a great option, but the pads and undies have a little less of a learning curve and may be easier products to introduce them to. The important thing is to let them know how many options are out there! You can even talk about how cool it is that there are so many menstrual products available now that may not have been when you were first growing up.
Do your own research, and let them do the same
Remember how much you loved to learn something new and then tell literally everyone about it? There are a lot of great resources available now for youth wanting to learn about their own bodies, and they might feel more comfortable chatting with you about periods if they feel fully informed about them first.
For parents, we did a “How to Teach Sex-Ed at Home” facebook live with Jessica Wollen that’s available for free, and has some great resources linked in the comments! (Content warning, mention of sexual assault, some gendered language). Jessica also shared this incredible booklist that covers the (BC) curriculum from K-Grade 12.
We’ve also put together the Aisle Youth Period Guide that’s all about periods! It’s full of tips for cycle tracking, what kinds of products are available, and fighting the stigma that comes with menstruation. And, it’s available for free! Click here to sign up for our email list (no spam, and you can leave at any time, promise!) and download it. It’s a great way to give the young folks in your life power over learning about their body, and open the floor for any questions they might have for you.
If they ask you a question you don’t know the answer to, don’t be afraid to say you don’t know! It gives you the opportunity to look into it together.
You’ve got this!
You know your kids better than anyone (except themselves) and you love them. Be open, honest, and vulnerable with them, and they will respond in kind.