If your daughter is approaching puberty, she is likely to be feeling anxious about starting her periods. Finding ways to talk about it in an open and confident manner will make all the difference to her experience of menstruation.
Menstruation is a natural process, but we still live in a society where we hide pads up our sleeves, where images of blood stains are removed from social media and sportswomen are reluctant to speak up on the impact of menstruation on their performance.
Introducing how to start a conversation
Having the period talk can be intimidating for parents, of course, who may feel awkward and embarrassed. This is something that can be overcome, especially if it’s done gradually. Have a series of conversations, not one big talk, so it doesn’t feel like a huge, scary moment.
Introduce the subject briefly to start with, so she knows periods are up for discussion. Look for teachable moments that give you an opportunity to talk about them. Advertisements for sanitary protection, TV soap storylines that cover the issue, sports stars and celebrities discussing issues around menstruation, social media campaigns – all give you a ‘way in’ to start a discussion.
First ask your daughter how much she knows about periods, so you don’t get the eye-rolling response when you start telling her something she’s already well aware of. Try talking about your own period experiences, as a teen and as a woman, so she can relate to the subject in a more personal way. Keep the story positive or at least with a positive outcome, so she doesn’t panic about something similar happening to her. Or talk about something that happened to a friend at school or a female celebrity who has mentioned periods in an interview.
When she’s ready to ask them be prepared to answer any questions in an honest way, like
‘How much blood will I lose?’
‘What if blood leaks through my clothes?’
‘Will anyone be able to tell I’m on my period?’
And always use clear language like ‘period’, ‘vagina’ and ‘sanitary towels’ (not euphemisms like ‘time of the month’, ‘down there’ and ‘protection’) to avoid confusion.
We teach them that it is a hygienic
Being open with her about the process of periods and how to manage them will help your daughter develop more confidence about them. Talking about them, getting used to sanitary towels and tampons and knowing about the various stages and symptoms means the whole subject gets de-mystified.
Most importantly, avoid being negative about periods so she doesn’t view them with dread or revulsion. No more talking about ‘the curse’ or even ‘my monthly visitor,’ which just sounds ominous. Keep the language positive, so it’s just a natural part of becoming a woman that all women share.
Dispel the myths
In the process of discussing periods, it’s important to dispel the myths that swirl around them, which can make your daughter feel like menstruation is something shameful. She may know it’s nonsense but it doesn’t help to hear made-up tales like menstrual blood is ‘unclean’, or that menstruating women curdle milk just by being in the same room.
Friends at school may have told her you can lose a tampon inside you permanently, that using tampons can kill you, or that you can’t wash your hair or swim during your period. Mostly these come from half-truths and misinformation, and while your daughter may suspect they’re untrue, not having all the facts can make her feel anxious. Unfortunately, some cultures still perpetuate more extreme myths. In fact, 20 per cent of girls in rural India believe they should not talk to a male member of the family during menstruation.