I have a confession: I haven’t always been a man who is passionate about periods. And, truth be told, maybe I’m not “passionate” about them now, but what I am passionate about is helping our daughters understand, and be better prepared for, the changes menstruation brings.
To tell the entire story I have to go back to my childhood and what I knew about menstruation as a kid—which was basically nothing. I grew up in a house with all girls, but times were different. My mom was not very candid or open about certain topics. If any conversations were taking place, I was kept out them.
I grew up learning that private things are… private. My wife, Amy, challenged that way of thinking and changed my perception of menstruation. She put me in my place when I felt uncomfortable talking about personal things and made me understand that buying tampons for her wasn’t something to be embarrassed about. She normalized the topic for me so that I could help normalize it for my kids.
So here’s the shocker, guys. Periods are completely normal. They happen to half the population and guess what? None of us would be here if they didn’t exist. It’s time that we embrace the period discussion and step up as fathers to do our part in normalizing the conversation for our own children—both girls and boys.
An Ongoing Conversation to Prepare for the Changes
You can have the period talk wherever you are when the topic comes up and wherever your daughter is comfortable talking about it. Having dinner at the kitchen table, in the car on the way to soccer practice, or at her favorite mini golf course can all be the “right” place for an open, honest conversation.
You can introduce the concept of her changing body around age nine, before menstruation has started.
The idea is to prepare her for the changes she’s going to experience. It should be an ongoing conversation that you continue whenever you have an opportunity and utilizing all of the resources you’ve chosen for your daughter.
Talking about menstruation should be as casual as talking about the weather.
“Is it going to be sunny or rainy today? Are you going to Ally’s sleepover? Do you have pads or tampons with you in case your period starts?” Your role is to be supportive and make her feel comfortable, and this approach demonstrates that you don’t have any issues discussing the topic. Be prepared for questions that might come up and make sure you know the answers.
Dad Don’ts for Talking About Periods
When it comes to a dad talking to his daughter about puberty, it’s just as important to know what not to do when talking to your daughter about her period.
- Don’t let gender stereotypes prevent you from being the best dad you can be.
- Don’t let fear of the unknown keep you from addressing the topic.
- Don’t be lazy and put it off because you don’t feel completely comfortable talking about it.
- Don’t promote the stigma that having a period is dirty.
- Don’t leave her to her own devices to “figure it out.” That leads to misinformation from unreliable sources.
- Don’t ignore it. It’s going to happen whether you are ready for it or not.
- Don’t freak out. Kids pick up on our reactions and often adopt our behaviors. Lead by example.
- Don’t use language she won’t understand. Don’t use too many medical terms or euphemisms.
- Don’t pawn the work on someone else in her life. Don’t expect that only the women in her life will be empathetic to her situation.
- Don’t forget that your opinion matters. This is your chance to set a great example for the type of men she should want in her life.
You are an expert when it comes to your child and you know how much information she can process and how far to push her on certain topics. While you may feel at a disadvantage because you don’t have first-hand experience, you can still educate your daughter about her period and support her through the changes she is experiencing.
Engaging deeply with these types of discussions with your daughter will strengthen your relationship and become an important and memorable part of her development. Who knows? You may one day tell someone that you are passionate about periods.