Written by Emily Stewart, founder of The Real Period Project and the guide for our new Mothering Your Daughter Through Menarche course.
Whilst there is still a long way to go in our culture in learning to appreciate periods and the menstrual cycle, conversation is more open and we as parents can play a big part in changing the narrative for our children.
We can teach them early on the difference between privacy and secrecy, and foster pride rather than shame. And we can play a really active role in preparing them for puberty and periods so they feel supported, held and as ready as possible for the changes ahead.
This is the second article in a three part series looking at how we can prepare ourselves and our kids to traverse the bumpy terrain of puberty and starting periods. Part one looked at preparing ourselves, and in this article we’ll look at how we can prepare our kids for starting periods.
Step One: Get talking!
There’s a golden rule when it comes to talking with kids about puberty, periods, sex and all that stuff we can tend to want to avoid - talk soon & talk often! Teaching young children as early as possible about all their body parts including genitals (using the correct terms rather than euphemisms) builds resilience and body acceptance, and talking openly about periods in your home makes it a normal part of life, not something that has to be hidden away.
Some children will ask about puberty and some never will, so don’t wait until they start asking!
Books are a great way to start the conversation and there are lots appropriate from very young. If your child is already right in puberty, books can be easier for them to ease into than a sudden and possibly overwhelming conversation.
Step Two: Get prepared
As they start getting closer to starting periods, spend some time with your child looking at period products together. Encourage them to try some on (external only!), talk about how they’re made and how they work. A trip to town to buy a trainer bra or some period products is much more attractive if it includes a special cake and hot chocolate date and one on one time with you.
Encourage them to carry around some pads wherever they go, both for themselves and to help out a friend in need.
Step Three: Reassure
Puberty is a daunting prospect for most kids, and if periods are also on the agenda they may have extra fears and misgivings. Periods are mostly portrayed in a negative light in the media so it’s normal to be nervous about pain, leaking and feeling awful. How you talk about periods and look after yourself is a powerful model.
We don’t need to sugar coat the experience and pretend they’re all sweetness and light - it’s much more helpful to be realistic about the challenges we face experiencing menstruation in a world that’s always trying to cover it up.
Being honest that having your period at school or work is not fun, but that a hot bath in the evening and some self-kindness goes a long way.
We’re thrilled to share that we have a new Red School Mothering Your Daughter Through Menarche’ online course! Dive deeper into preparing yourself and your child for menarche, with support and lots of practical advice and resources so you don’t have to do it alone. You may also be interested in our other articles in this series: Three Ways To Prepare Yourself For Your Child’s First Period (Part 1) and How To Support Your Child With Their First Period And Beyond.