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.