P-E-R-I-O-D – A six letter word which brings with it so much of shame and embarrassment, yes even today. Things are changing – movies are being made on the topic, girls are attempting to talk openly about it, but the change is slow.
As a parent, having that first period talk with your daughter is always a difficult stage. When do I tell her? How do I tell her? What do I tell her? Most of us have grown up with hesitations and silence around this word, so its but natural that a talk on this does not come easy. Moreover, most of us still do not know the correct reason or process about how periods happen.
So today, let me hold your hand and take you on a step by step guide to initiate the ‘Periods’ conversation with your daughters.
What’s the right age to initiate a conversation on periods?
Girls attain puberty anytime between the age of 9 and 13, some earlier than that and some later. The ideal situation would be to prepare the girl for this change in her life before she actually experiences it. Hence, we suggest that your first conversation starts at the age of 9-10.
Of course, there are other times when a younger child may land upon Mama’s tampons or sanitary pads and raise a question about the same. As a parent, one needs to be ready to talk at that age too, it’s just your vocabulary to explain the process, that will need to change.
Who is the right person to talk to the child about periods? Should it be the mother, the father or both together?
We suggest that the conversation happen with both the parents in attendance. It’s important to get the message across that periods is not a gender based topic. It’s a natural biological process and there is no shame or embarrassment in it. It’s as natural as growing taller or getting facial hair during puberty. Having the dad present during this conversation takes the shame away from the process and passes the message to the child that its normal and natural.
How do we initiate the conversation about Periods?
Opportunities present themselves every single day; you need to just recognise those conversation opener opportunities.
A sanitary napkin ad in a newspaper is an opportunity: “Hey, do you know what these napkins are used for?” An ad on TV is a great opportunity too: “Hey, do you know that the blue liquid they put on pads is incorrect information?” You, getting your periods and having cramps is another conversation opportunity. So, grab these opportunities.
How should we behave while having this conversation with our child?
How you say something is more important at times than what you say. Her attitude about periods will be a direct reflection of your behaviour while you explain it to her. If you are shy and embarrassed, the child will treat it as what it is today- a taboo. She will be shy and embarrassed about it and may never speak to you about it and that is not our purpose, is it? Your confidence and assertiveness of the fact that it’s natural and normal will instill confidence in her.
How do we explain the process of periods sensitively to a child?
Chances are, that before you even speak to your daughter about periods, she already has an inkling about it. Ads on television, a chance encounter to info on the internet, whispered conversations among school friends… the source of information can be many and not necessarily the right information. This could have created fear in her mind and thus, this makes it more important that as parents, we work harder to make the conversation about Periods easy, comfortable and accurate for our girls.
Let’s make it easy by picturing a conversation between a Father and his Daughter.
F: Dad wants to talk to you about periods today. I want you to know that it’s absolutely natural and normal.
D: Dad! This is awkward!
F: Exactly why we are discussing this today. To make you understand that there is absolutely nothing ‘awkward’ about periods. It’s natural and girls start getting one once they attain puberty.
D: Why can’t mom talk to me about this…this is so embarrassing!
F: That’s exactly the point I am trying to make – that its natural, so should not be embarrassing whether I speak to you or mom does. I want you to be comfortable with them.
D: Aahhh…ummm…Dad, some girls in my class already have had their periods. I haven’t. Is that normal?
F: That’s perfectly normal. The puberty age varies from 9-13 across the world. Some may start having their periods at 8 years of age and some at fourteen. Everyone’s body is unique and so is yours.
D: I have heard some real painful accounts of periods. Can one bleed to death?
F: No, you won’t. It’s normal to have varied amounts of blood flow on different days of your period. The number of days range from three to five. Yet, if you feel that the bleeding is abnormal, that’s when you should reach out to your parent so that we can help you.
D: Tampons and pads, they look complicated.
F: In the beginning they may look so but you will get used to them once you find a brand or type you are comfortable with.
D: It’s all so weird.
F: It may sound so and it’s alright to feel so too. There will be changes in your body and you may feel a little angry towards everyone around, right before you get your periods. This is called Pre-Menstrual Syndrome, it’s normal too and let no one tell you that it’s not.
D: This is crazy, why do I have to bleed every month?
F: Anatomy. A girl has a baby bag inside her which is called the ‘Uterus’. This is the place where a baby develops. This uterus creates a thick lining of blood and tissues every month, in preparation for the time when the girl has a baby. But till then, this bag goes through a monthly cleaning. So every month, this thick lining of blood and tissues sheds and comes out from the girls body through her vagina. This shedding of the lining is known as a girls period. A new lining is again created and shed next month. Its as simple. (Parents can add on to this information as the girl grows older by talking about ova, sperms, and fertilisation not happening, thus lining shedding.)
D: It’s not simple…it’s all so complicated. I have so many questions.
F: And that’s why I am here, to answer all of them. To make it all simple.
How do you get her Period ready?
Now that she understands the process, there are other things she needs to get ready for. You need to talk to her about vaginas, tampons, sanitary pads, menstrual cramps, PMS, irregular periods, accidental staining etc in detail. Each of these can be broken down into simpler terms while being communicated to a child of 9 or 10. Always be ready for questions, children have a tonne load of them. (Look out for our blogs on all of these topics – coming soon!)
Do you need to celebrate when she gets her first Period?
What she wants should be of utmost importance! The child’s body is undergoing major changes in puberty and more than celebration, she needs comfort and understanding. We know of the turmoil in our bodies and minds while we face periods, every month. Imagine it for the very first time. As much as she needs to be happy and comfortable with the changes in her body, she also needs time to accept them and make it a way of life.
If she wants to have a special sleepover or party with her close bunch of friends to celebrate her becoming a little lady, then by all means give her that celebration. But if she is not ready to publicly share this news as yet, then respect that. You can make it a special occasion for her anyways by cutting a cake and giving her a special gift and lots of cuddles!