The other day my tween daughter was watching Baby-Sitters Club on Netflix. She’d read all the novels and was knee deep in the pure pleasure of commenting on how much better the books were (which is definitely something she gets from me).
Then, she paused the show, looked up at me, and asked, “What’s a period?”
I balked and stuttered and made some comment about uterine lining and eggs and something that happens when someone who menstruates enters puberty. She asked if it hurt, and I gave another stammered, ill-thought out answer—mostly because I didn’t want to say the actual answer that came to mind about cramps and headaches and overall crumminess, which was probably too dramatic for the casual afternoon question. Then she returned to her device and I wondered whether I’d answered correctly, given her enough information and provided her with an actual answer since the answer I gave her didn’t even involve the word “blood.”
I’m not squeamish about talking to my kids about things. I’m a wait-until-the-question-is-asked parent, versus a volunteer information parent, but I will answer. We’ve covered the proper names for their body parts, where babies come from, and hard-hitting topics like disease, death, and grief. And yet, this question left me speechless. Mostly because I was worried I’d scare her. I just didn’t know what to say.
I wasn’t prepared. And I need to be because without a doubt that question will be back. But even given a few extra hours, I still wasn’t sure exactly what to tell her next time she approached me. In all truth, I wasn’t sure if maybe I should approach her—tell her my first answer wasn’t great and provide more information preemptively, rather than waiting for the question to be asked again—because maybe next time she wouldn’t come to me and she’d learn something else from someone else.
As always, when I’m faced with uncertainty or questions, I turn to books to help me. Which is where this list comes in.
Scary Mommy has rounded up a list of books we can use to help us talk to our girls (and boys!) about their periods.
This body positive guide covers everything from bras to braces and encourages kids to feel excited and empowered about puberty. This book contains advice on growing pains, peer pressure, intense feelings, and the ways to support a healthy growing body.
In print for over twenty years, and with over 400,000 copies sold, this illustrated guidebook to puberty has no doubt helped thousands of kids and parents get some clarity on all the pressing questions about everything from pimples to mood swings. With recently updated content, this book offers practical and clear answers to common questions.
The title says it all. This is a book for the modern kid, with real-life facts presented in an honest, funny, and unafraid way. This full-color book is described as a celebration of women’s bodies and features bright illustrations, infographics, personal testimonials, and doctor-vetted information.
Not only does this book help prepare kids (and their parents) for the ups and downs of puberty, but the book also covers topical issues like #MeToo and school safety. Body changes, personal hygiene, self-confidence, and leadership are all covered in this bestselling book which is in its fifth edition.
From the American Girl Library, this book features tips, how-tos, and facts from experts targeted to kids ages 8 and up. The book covers not only periods, but also pimples, bad breath, and bras. As your child grows and becomes comfortable with the changes in their body, they can continue learning by checking out The Care & Keeping of You 2.
And while many of these books seem to directly target girls in their titles, we know boys can have periods, too, and have no fewer questions. If you’re looking for a few options without the word “girl” in the title, Scary Mommy recommends you check out these.
A practical book covering everything you need to know about periods for children, adults, moms, dads, womb-owners and ex-womb-owners. In a HuffPost interview, the author Natalie Byrne said she wanted to write this book because “everyone’s experiences of periods are different and I love that as a message for everyone, even if you don’t have a period: every body is different, and that’s okay.” Also, the author has committed to donating a percentage of the profits to Bloody Good Period, an organization providing menstrual supplies to asylum seekers, refugees, and those who can’t afford them.
A coloring book that takes the taboo out of periods and also dismantles the idea that only girls can have periods. This coloring book follows Toni the Tampon–a gender neutral character–along with their friends Sebastian the Sea Sponge and Marina the Menstrual Cup and encourages everyone to stop talking about periods as something that happens to girls only, and to stop treating periods as shameful monthly occurrences that need to be hidden.
I want my children to be comfortable coming to me with all their questions–about puberty and friendship and whatever else comes to mind. But the truth is, I may not have the perfect answer at the right time. But luckily, there are books, and luckily kids don’t usually need perfect answers or perfect parents–just parents who are doing their best.