We need to talk to our daughters about periods earlier than we think
Parents spend a lot of time dreading the day when they have to have “the sex talk” with their kids. But just as uncomfortable and every bit as necessary is “the puberty talk.” Unfortunately, with all the focus on the former, sometimes the importance of the latter is overlooked. But when it comes to girls, who these days are getting their first periods earlier than ever, we need to make sure they’re prepared for what could be a distressing event otherwise.
The importance of preparing young girls for their periods was highlighted in a Reddit post yesterday, in which a teacher shared a story about one of her fourth-grade students:
When her student didn’t return from a bathroom break, this teacher looked for her and found her in the restroom. She told her teacher “that she had pooped her pants but in the front,” and was “completely confused and sad.”
Yes, this was a fourth-grader. A nine- or ten-year-old. Some of us might have gotten our first periods later and thought we had plenty of time to get into the nitty-gritty about puberty with our girls. But the average age of a girl’s first period has dropped from 16 or 17 at the turn of the century to 12-years-old today, with some girls starting menstruation as young as eight. Does that mean you might want to talk about puberty and periods with your daughter in kindergarten? According to most experts, the earlier the better.
In a very helpful article on The Mayo Clinic’s site, they say that not only should this discussion happen early, but “if your child isn’t asking questions, it’s up to you to start talking about menstruation.” I can say, personally, that I had the sex talk with my kids years before we had an in-depth talk about puberty. I was shocked when I realized that, because they’re going to be going through puberty way way way before they ever have sex. (The emphasis on the word “way” is mine and extremely intentional.)
But this order of conversation is the case with many parents, and it’s easy to see why — we tend to want to spend more time talking with our kids about the important things they will have to make choices about as opposed to things that are harmless and inevitable.
Because if girls aren’t prepared to see blood in their underwear, it can be extremely scary. After all, kids associate blood with injury, and if a girl isn’t informed about periods, she will understandably assume the worst. Here’s what happened to some under-informed Reddit commenters:
One commenter noted that it’s also important for our sons to know about periods so that they’re aware of what will be happening to some of their classmates:
The Mayo Clinic recommends being honest, positive, and practical about periods: what they are, why they happen, and how to handle them. There are also a lot of great books out there that girls can read on their own since not everyone loves talking about their periods with their moms. (Weird, I know.) Our girls are growing up faster than ever. That’s scary, but it’s a lot scarier when those girls are unprepared for it.