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How NOT to Explain Menstruation to Your Kid

Updated on November 26, 2011

Parents rarely look forward to having 'facts of life' discussions with their children, and no one holds that against them. It can be extremely awkward and uncomfortable and no one enjoys the pressure of having to teach their child about something most of us regard as highly personal and not a matter of public discourse. Fortunately, explaining a girl's first period is not quite so harrowing as explaining other topics, such as where babies come from, and if your daughter is near the age of menstruation you've probably already had that talk -- so this one ought to be a piece of cake in comparison! That said, there are several things parents often do (most likely because their parents did the same) during the course of this particular talk, and I'd like to suggest trying to have the talk without doing so. And I will, of course, explain why. To hear more about the 5 things parents shouldn't do when talking about a girl's first menstrual cycle, please continue reading!

Don't Tell Her She's a Woman Now

This has got to be one of the most absurd things parents or grandparents tell their daughter or granddaughter when she gets her first period. Not only is it a big fat lie -- your daughter or granddaughter knows that is. How many 11, 12, 13 or 14 year old girls view themselves as women? Not many, if any. And even an older teenager knows she's not yet a woman. My own parents did not say this to me, but my grandmother did. She appeared to be bursting with pride, and I can honestly say the entire conversation utterly creeped me out. Not only did I know I was not a woman, but neither did I feel like one. Nor did I want anyone else pretending to view me as such for the sake of some silly traditional coming-of-age chat. And do I need to point out that by telling a 13 year old girl that she is now menstruating and is therefore a woman, the logic that follows is that she is now fully prepared to engage in sexual activity -- because, after all, menstruation is the body's way of signaling that procreation can now take place. So perhaps it's best not to creep your kid out with out-of-date talks that were appropriate at the start of last century, when women were actually getting married and having babies at 15. Times have changed. Thank God.


Don't Be Too Technical

Having a gynecologist father and an Ob/Gyn nurse for a mother might give the impression that my "menstruation" talk was top notch, but the truth is more that they just freaked the heck out of me. They stuck medical books in front me, complete with strange drawings and diagrams, and scientific explanations for what was happening at what stage and why. They explained how the various effects hormones would have on various parts of the body during every part of the cycle. Can I just tell you that the average 7 year old is not going receive this well? Not only did most of it go right over my head, it totally confused me -- and confusion rarely leads to anything good. I appreciate that they did the best they could, and I've no doubt they thought they were giving me great insight into the menstrual cycle; but all they really did was give me great dread as I waited for "the change" to occur, and I hoped it would start as late as it possibly could. Or never.

Don't Have the Talk Too Young

Most girls have heard something about menstruation by the time they reach 3rd grade, unless you live on a desert isle somewhere. They may hear it via their mother's discussing it with friends, or their older sister may have already experienced it. Or they may hear about it in school, via health class or peers. Do not worry yourself that your daughter is going to be fully unprepared for her first period if you haven't had the talk by kindergarten! Most girls will not get their period earlier than the age of 10, and most will probably be teens when they do get it. Regardless, there is plenty of time. Besides, if this is something she's got on her mind, she's probably already learned all about it via the internet. So don't panic. Today's kids are have loads more information at their fingertips than you or I ever did and there is no need to foist all this info on her before she needs it. The average 7 year old does not want to be worried about such things, and since she's going to have to deal with menstruation for half of her life anyway, you might as well let her enjoy not having to worry about it a little bit longer.


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