How we tackle tough topics in my family is something I often talk about here. Period talk is no different. It’s just part of being a parent. Periods are as natural as showering, eating and sleeping here. So why shy away from period talk?
Starting and continuing the period conversation is an important part of parenting and a vital part of development for young girls too.
This post is part of the YummyMummyClub.ca and Always Tampax sponsored program. I received compensation as a thank you for my participation. This post reflects my personal opinion about the information provided by the sponsors.
Do you remember the book Are you There God, It’s Me Margaret?
The book was well worn by the time I got my period. I’d read it perhaps a hundred times as had every girl in grade six in the town of Guelph who went through puberty in the 80s.
What I remember about puberty was that it was an open conversation in my house. I never had any trouble talking about periods or puberty with my own Mom because she was very open about bodily functions and biology. She didn’t hide details about menstruation or gloss over it. I always knew she was 14 when she got her period, and I knew too that I could probably expect the same.
As much as I fought it growing up, we were two halves of the same biological puzzle. In my 40s, now I look at my body and think “wow, I always thought I would grow differently than my mother and yet, here I am, same hips she had, same bra size.” She never hid the fact that she had endometriosis, which for her meant heavy periods with severe cramping and an early hysterectomy.
I am a mom of two beautiful girls, now 10 and 12, and puberty is a regular conversation around here. Exactly as it was in my childhood home, but yet slightly different. Let me explain.
My girls are tweens. They are growing fast, they are curious, and also extremely verbal. They often bombard me with questions about things – big questions that are sometimes hurtled forth as I drive down Highway 401, or as I am otherwise occupied with tedious, but important tasks.
Period talk is no different. We started the conversation here at home the minute they started showing any signs of puberty. For my one daughter, that meant starting the conversation around the age of eight years old. As a digital Mom, I think I tweeted at the time something like– does anyone know any good books about puberty for a tween? And I got a couple of ideas from my twitter friends. Those led me to Google and Amazon and I ordered some books for her. The Care and Keeping of You, both volumes and It’s Perfectly Normal are a few of the books I like. She kept, and read, the books in her room and would often come to me and ask more questions.
I believe in keeping the lines of communication open and I always answer their period talk questions honestly and at an age appropriate level. Both of my girls are also adopted so I am used to this barrage of hard questions. It’s not uncommon for them to ask: “how old was my birth mom when she had me?” or “when do I need to start shaving my legs?” or “how old was my birth mom when she got her period?”
Sometimes I Don’t Know The Answers
Some of these questions I legitimately answer with , “I don’t know.” It’s a sad reality of adoption. I never met either of my girl’s birth parents, so I don’t know how to answer that question. There are questions you can answer and those you cannot. Honesty is the best policy and I apply that here.
When you adopt you get a social history that tells you ages and education and ethnicity. But the real dirt, the nitty gritty that occupies my daughters’ mind at the ages of 8, 9, 10 and 11 is this: what age did my birth mom get her period? When did she start to wear a bra?” I will sometimes answer: “I don’t know, but I started wearing one when I was 13,” I give her the facts about my periods when she asks and I even tell her about her grandma’s periods. Just to let her know it’s normal.
Both grandma and I had endometriosis which translated into extremely heavy periods with a lot of cramping. I have every indication neither one of my girls will have this. That’s one good thing about adoption.
Sometimes I tell them what to expect in terms of flow and what’s normal. I keep it calm and I let them know that they can come to me if think their periods are too heavy, or irregular. This too is an important part of health.
A couple of years ago I started stocking the kids’ bathroom with sanitary pads so they are prepared when periods happen. I fill a Ziploc bag with pads and discreetly put it in their backpacks. We rehearse what to do if a period starts at school if there isn’t anything handy such as calling a close friend to go get your backpack or calling a trusted teacher or an educational assistant. She can call me at home or work if there isn’t anyone available. Feeling comfortable with the products and the process is important, and I want them not to worry.
Lately, with my older daughter our period talk conversation also lends itself to discussion of responsibility. Be responsible with your body when you have your period. Stay on top of good grooming and remember to change pads so there are never embarrassing moments at school. Take care of yourself.
Building on The Period Talk
I tell her lately that having your period means that you can get pregnant if you are sexually active. My oldest daughter scrunches her nose up just as I would have when I was a kid hearing my Mom mention periods or sex. Mostly, I want my kids to make smart decisions. They need to understand life, biology, and reproductive health. So I will never shy away from the hard questions. Sometimes they are the greatest opportunities to build closeness for life.
For even more information and advice on how to talk to the girl in your life about her changing body and answers to the questions she may have, visit www.pgeveryday.ca/always-changing. Then tell your daughter about BeingGirl.com where she can find find information and expert advice on what will happen when she goes through puberty, getting her period and more.