Parenting: How to Rock the Period Talk

How to rock at the period talk with your pre-teen daughter

The Period Talk

I’m pretty sure I had the period talk with my own mother. I imagine it would have involved phrases like a little bit of blood, no it doesn’t hurt, and, they’re in the airing cupboard. I think the next time anything ‘like that’ was mentioned, was when my father asked me to accompany him to the Costa del Sol pharmacy to save his blushes when my mum had been caught unawares. I was fifteen so I refused, naturally, and didn’t look him in the face again for the rest of the week.

The sex talk was even worse: I knew nothing – and I mean nothing. Jackie magazine had me scared of snogging in case I wound up pregnant. I will never forget the day my very red-faced science teacher (Mrs. Moore) told her class of eleven-year olds the mechanics of reproduction in humans. I was more than disgusted – I was traumatised. I went home, and I actually think I never looked my father in the face ever again!

So how should the period talk be done?

Tampax have just published research which says that although around half of teenaged girls would still ask their mums about starting periods, bloggers and vloggers are higher up the list of people to trust than nurses or doctors. Although it’s a way off, myself and G have had a few open conversations about puberty and sex, and I’m hopeful that being open about it from an early age will mean that she feels comfortable talking to me as she navigates her teenage years.

Here are some things to consider before you have the period talk with your daughter.

  • Don’t wait till it’s too late. Periods usually start around two and a half years after breast development begins, and about a year after a major growth spurt, so use this as a general guide.
  • How will you get the chat started? There are some great books about growing up, aimed at both girls and boys. I gave G a book to read, and then boggled my eyes at some of the facts included in there when I happened to glance through it myself. It’s fine though, I figure she’s going to learn all of this eventually, and I’d rather she read it at home than hear a dodgy version on the playground. Or you might try something like Teen Parcel to introduce the concept to her, and answer her questions from there.
  • Don’t give her what you used to use. I very quickly progressed to tampons, mostly because I couldn’t stand the brick-sized pad waddling around in my pants. Young girls want discretion with their protection. If she needs to get the heavies in, try pads labelled ‘ultra’; these are usually thin, but extremely absorbent. There are also tampons which expand to fit a younger woman’s body.
  • Do your shopping early – in my cupboard is a bag of various pads and tampons, all designed for a younger girl. G knows where it is, and that it’s hers whenever she wants it. The theory is, she can try them all, and then tell me what she’d like to restock on. Or write it on the shopping list if she’s feeling awkward. We need never mention it again!
  • Nearer the time, you might want to let her choose a small toiletries bag she can carry in her school bag, just in case. She can add a pad, a tampon and spare pants, so she knows she has all she needs if she’s not at home when she gets her first period. Choose something pretty, and the whole thing might seem more positive to her and less of big deal.
  • Don’t discount applicator tampons because of horror memories of all that peeling cardboard 40 years ago. Tampax have recently launched the Tampax Compak Pearl, which expands width ways to eliminate gaps that might cause leaks. It’s also tiny, and has a smooth applicator, so I know my daughter won’t be quite as freaked out as I was when confronted with my first tampon!
  • Don’t be embarrassed; research shows that girls feel way less awkward about the details of their bodies than we did at the same age. Everything gets talked about now, and you can bet they have covered most subjects with their friends already, so getting her facts straight with you won’t phase her nearly as much as you think it might.
  • Oh, and don’t let her loose with a tampon without teaching her the one foot up on the bath trick. Trust me, it will save hours of complicated instruction through a locked door! Not how you want to begin.

If you’re a mum wondering how to tackle the period talk, there’s some really good NHS information on starting periods. For girls looking for the facts, check out this advice on periods from Childline. We’ve also made this handy guide for Dads who want to start the conversation around periods with their daughters.

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20 thoughts on “Parenting: How to Rock the Period Talk”

  1. Thanks for sharing this. My daughter is 9 now and I know I’m in denial about her growing up. I’ve been thinking I need to have the period talk sooner rather than later, but it scares me! These resources sound very helpful.

    Reply
    • I found that talking about it openly from an early age seemed to make it less of a taboo. So maybe it doesn’t feel too awkward for her. I think the books and leaflets are a great help so they can start to get their head round it on their own, but know they can come to you with questions.

      Reply
  2. I actually remember my mum giving my the period chat… mainly because it happened when I was about 9, and the talk was as it was happening pretty much! I freaked out a bit but you’ve all gotta go through it right x so glad this is a fair way off for me yet with my LG! xx

    Reply
  3. This is fab advice, thank you! My 12yo daughter is in denial. I’ve had the talk. I’ve put pads in her drawer just in case. She kind of gets it (though is a bit horrified!). She has said point blank that she will not allow periods to happen! She doesn’t want to grow up at all! I can recall feeling envious of friends who started before me! I was 12 and she’s showing signs, but I’m sure she’ll somehow quell the hormones for a while through sheer determination! 🙂

    Reply
      • What a lovely blog. I told all about this to my 12 YO since she was 11 and was going on a residential trip. I did not want her to be caught in the middle and not knowing much about it. She is still waiting for it to happen but also very casual about it. My mum was very open about all that too and we had a special drawer in our house which had all the girlie stuff.
        But after all that chat I still wish we can wait for this growing up phase to happen for little more longer! My baby is growing way too fast! ☺️

        Reply
  4. My mum gave me the period talk the Summer before I started secondary school, which I think was far too late.Thankfully schools have upped their game on telling students about puberty, mine had very little information and poorly taught.I know I won’t be encouraging my daughter to use tampons, lots of reasons but it’s good to have a post to remind me I should be laying a foundation talk soon.

    Reply
  5. Wonderful advice! I honestly don’t remember the ‘period’ talk. I remember getting my period at my grandmother’s house and being given a towel to wear. I suffered from really bad cramping when I first started my periods, which thankfully settled.

    Reply
    • And yes, there is all that, which we haven’t yet discussed. I’m hoping thought that if things don’t go smoothly she’ll be able to talk to me about it.

      Reply
    • I think whenever she is ready. Helen has already given an indicator of when it may happen but I know girls starting their periods as young as 8 years old. If you think your daughter is mature enough I would talk about it – personally…..she says with 4 boys.

      Reply
      • Yes I agree – I think as soon as they start asking questions that could lead there, pounce on it. My children knew they were made of half Daddy half me, so when they asked if they were sellotaped together, I told them the basics, and we’ve gone from there. Neither of them are squeamish about any of it, so I’m hoping it will just unfold naturally and won’t seem like a weird thing to talk to me about.

        Reply
  6. Great post! I too thought I could get preggers from snogging!
    I also remember being in competition with my best pal to start our periods and she beat me to it. I was really jealous but got mine a few months later and realised the cold hard truth that periods are hideous! My Mum told my Dad and he leant over and whispered in my ear that he was ‘Proud his little girl was becoming a woman’. I am still cringing now at the age of 35!
    I am so lucky that I have sons and will not have to tackle this particular conversation…but I’m sure there will be plenty of other awkward moments and many an errant sock found stuffed under their mattresses.

    Reply
  7. Such great advice Helen! My eldest is 6 so I have a little bit left before talking about it. My early experience with period was awful – i had really bad pains and back then we had to use cotton as we didn’t have tampons or absorbents. Kara saw my absorbents and she asked me what are they for and i told her that once a month mummy needs to wear them…and that is about it…she didn’t ask why so I didn’t say anything anymore. I guess I will soon have to chat more about

    Reply
    • I just think answering naturally as and when the questions arise seems to work the best. I think by not being embarrassed or awkward with my kids, they’ve managed not to be as well. Good luck!

      Reply
  8. Definitely start talking about it as early as possible, it makes it much less embarrassing later on, if more for you than for them! We don’t close the bathroom door in our house so my daughter has known since, forever, which is lucky as she started years before I did

    Reply

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