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How to Talk About Periods: Breaking the Period Taboo

“How do I talk to my daughter about her period when I’m still waiting for my mother to talk to me?” Your Teen recently asked parents on social media. In a funny not funny kind of way, the responses suggested that, indeed, many moms grew up without talking about menstruation with their parents. But times are changing, and talking about periods may no longer be as taboo as it was a generation ago. As one mom mentioned, “Nobody needs to be in the dark about their body.”

In a way, it’s not surprising that period talk was taboo when we were teens. Across the world there are beliefs associated with menstruation that result in silence and shame. And of course, there are the stereotypes associated with “being on the rag” or “that time of the month.”

Maybe this is why some of our parents just couldn’t bring themselves to talk about intimate subjects. One mom jokes that she is “still waiting to find out where babies come from!”  Another shares, “My mom never said a thing to me. When it started, I thought I was dying.” (Scary!) In some cases, the absence of these discussions has had lasting impact. “My mom never talked to me about it and I still hide my purchase under the rest of my groceries.”

Instead of passing the period taboo down to their own children, however, many parents are trying to change the narrative.

How to Break the Menstruation Taboo

1. Be open and honest.

“I decided to talk to my kids about everything my parents didn’t,” explains one mom. She isn’t  alone—many parents are committed to talking about it as “a part of normal life.”

Many moms talk regularly with their daughters in an effort to make them feel comfortable and prepared for their monthly cycle. These conversations begin early, too. One mom shared that her daughters grew up seeing her deal with monthly cycles, so they were not surprised or fearful when they got their periods. Another said that her four-year-old daughter’s curiosity about the pads in the bathroom began a conversation that never stopped. “When it happened to her, she was ready.”

2. Use your village.

From attending a class together with other moms and daughters to programs at school, there are so many ways to provide information so that their daughters understand menstruation. And, of course, there is always a visit with the pediatrician who can also answer questions and provide support.

Many moms shared books that they read with their daughters in order to help them understand how their body changes as they grow up. Several moms swore by American Girl’s The Care and Keeping of You: The Body Book for Older Girls. All About Me and Girlology: A Girl’s Guide to Stuff that Matters also made the list.

3. Talk to your sons, too!

If we really want to break the period taboo, we need to bring our sons into the conversation. As one mom explains, “I’ve also been open with my sons. Periods shouldn’t be a source of embarrassment to anyone.” If boys are in the know, one mom believes, “then they can understand what’s happening and be supportive and conscious of the females in their lives.”

Making Progress

Already, these efforts to be open and honest about periods seem to be paying off. One mom observes that “my daughter and her friends are way more open with one another about periods than my friends and I were. They even openly reference it in mixed company. I think they own it without the shame or stigma from previous generations.”

Jody has spent her life around teens, as a teacher and as a parent of three.

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