Many of our friends, who are parents of daughters, have asked us, how they can talk to their girls about periods and puberty. Very often it is a subject fathers feel is better handled by the mother, but are worried about the impact of ignoring the 'elephant in the room'.
Fathers can and should talk periods
In celebration of Father's Day, we want to use the opportunity to shout out to ALL fathers of daughters IT IS TIME FOR YOU TO PARTICIPATE IN THE CONVERSATION ON PERIODS. This is a moment in your daughter's life she will never forget. Be a positive part of it. Don't shy away, be supportive. That little girl you held in your arms is becoming a woman, it's scary (for both of you), hold onto each other. Help her grow into the confident woman she will become and you want her to be.
Why have a conversation about periods with your daughter?
If you can handle it, so can she.
50% of the population can clearly remember one particular milestone in their life, yet most have never spoken about it or shared it with anyone; their first period.
Ask any women you know if she remembers her first period and you will get an affirmative answer, and if you are lucky perhaps you’ll get a few details.
This means that your little princess, who now is fast approaching or has hit puberty is about to have an experience that will deeply imprint on her for the rest of her life. You, her Daddy/Dad/Papi/Pappa CAN help her. Her grown-up life will be dominated by the cycles of menstruation and the positives and negatives that come with it, but the fact that it is a healthy, normal biological recurring event is very important for your daughter to understand. If you allow the conversation about periods and the pubescent changes she is experiencing to be a positive and natural one - you will help her grow up confident and strong, feeling in control and empowered.
As a father, you can help her realise that the changes she experiences are natural. If you are a single dad being a bit more proactive and organised is even more important and whilst you may find it a little awkward it is not difficult, read below for some tips and also my quick note to the Single Dad.
10 Top Tips for talking periods with your daughter
If nothing else take note of these, my top 10 tips on talking about periods with your daughter (this has been compiled with help from my own two daughters)
- Don’t wait to talk about puberty until puberty, the earlier you bring it up the easier it is, and more useful for your daughter (but naturally better late than never!)
- If they are old enough to ask a question, they are old enough to hear the answer
- Don’t drag out the conversation, but do persist
- Stay casual - in my daughter’s own words ‘don’t obsess’
- Keep your conversation and that you did/didn’t have this conversation to yourself
- Privacy is key, think about where you are and who is around
- Listen and take her seriously
- If you don’t have all the answers it’s ok - talk about who might be able to help (mother, aunt, cousin, good family friend) or research together
- Invest the time in your daughter, be interested
- Don’t start the conversation because your dog is in heat…. but do have a sense of humour
Our daughters can benefit from a male perspective, on this subject too.
Periods. Menstruation. Code Red. Or my favourite ‘the communists have arrived’. There are many names for menstruation, many have come about as a consequence of the stigma that surrounds the subject. As father who is willing and able to talk periods, you are doing your bit to help end the taboo. That, taboo causes feelings of shame for so many menstruators, we need to change that there should be no shame in this natural and necessary biological occurrence, ultimately you being open will help in changing the world your daughter is growing up in.
Note to Single Dads - in fact any Dad.
Don’t shy away from the subject. You need to do it or she will get her (mis-) information from the Internet or friends. It is a time of great uncertainty and confusion and she will probably be insecure about how she looks and feels because of all the changes. The main thing to communicate to your daughter is that she is growing from a lovely girl into a beautiful young lady, just as her mother and all women she knows have done. Hearing that from a father is essential. Be prepared and let her know you are there for her. A sense of humour helps relax a conversation and allows her to laugh with you about something you are both struggling with.
When you don't know the answers to your daughter's questions, look for them. Do your research. Find a trusted female mentor if you feel overwhelmed. But make an effort. If you're feeling awkward talking about hormones, menstruation, sex, and other similar topics, tell her - it might make her only feel more at ease because she is likely to be embarrassed too.
Don't ignore what she's experiencing or pretend it isn't happening. If you do, she may well think there's something wrong with her and she will worry.
She's still your princess
Just because she is growing up don’t forget to hug her (when she is ok with it). Girls often feel unsure about how their body is changing, and they need to know that your love has not changed. Being a constant source of love and support in your daughter's life will help her get through this challenging time.
Discussing menstruation with your wife or partner can help especially if you feel uncertain, but your acknowledgement and openness with your daughter about the things she is going through is important, it will help your relationship through this time. Ask your daughter how she feels. Be open and talk. Remember: she needs to hear from you that what she is experiencing is very natural, in fact, healthy and you love her just as much as when she was little.
What to discuss
Menstruation: Bleeding that is part of a women’s monthly cycle
8 - 16: The age range when a girl can get her first period (known as Menarche)
3 - 6: Average time in days a period lasts
6: The average number of years a women will spend menstruating in her lifetime
I find the UN Women site gives a super easy overview of facts about menstruation and of course there are some great ‘father of daughter’ blogs out there too.
Period Myths You Both Need to Know are NOT TRUE
- If you swim when you have your period, sharks will attack you
- If you use a tampon, you will lose your virginity
- Exercise and sport can disturb the menstrual flow ( in fact it can actually help relieve cramps and pain)
Topics to Address
Ups and Downs: The flood of hormones is going to cause your daughter’s moods to fluctuate . Crying for no reason is one effect that is very difficult to deal with for both of you. A hug, a cup of hot chocolate or tea or watching your favourite comedy show will help. She will also feel more sensitive about things that normally wouldn’t bother her and would have made her laugh before. This isn’t her fault, but knowing this may help her (and you) maintain some perspective and treat these events as ‘growing pains’.
Her Cycle (that's the menstrual cycle for you MAMILs! ) and Vaginal Discharge: Not put here purely for the shock value. She needs to know what to expect so she’s not left alone in fear and confusion when it happens. Tell her; because no-one else will. Discharge is completely normal and will change in terms of consistency and volume during the menstrual cycle.
Spots, Braces, and Breasts: All delights of puberty, I am sure if you try hard enough you may remember you experienced these (well hopefully apart from the breasts) during puberty. These changes are natural but they will likely make her feel more insecure, particularly if she develops earlier or later than her friends and classmates. Your reassurance and empathy are both essential here. Let her know that she is beautiful.
Boys, Boys, Boys: Boys move from annoying to attractive. It will be reassuring and enlightening for her to know what changes the boys are experiencing. Talking to her how you behaved and felt around girls when you were a teenager this will give her a good insight into the differences between girls and boys, from a male perspective.
Easy, Practical Things You CAN Do
Once you have started the conversation there are a few easy and practical things you can do, they will make a world of difference to your daughter.
Know the Facts
Prepare yourself with the period facts, read our blog 9 'Period Essentials You Must Know' it is what it says it is. Forward on the link to your daughter.
A First Period Kit
Buy some period products to have in the bathroom ready. A Mondays Menarche Kit (First Period or Starter Kit) is a set that contains a specially selected range of our organic cotton period products including a handy little purse.
Ensure you ask her once she has started her period what products she prefers and keep stocked up. Depending on the girl and her period, you should reckon on having about 20 - 25 products available for each cycle, i.e. one Mondays Box (or two supermarket packets). As a Dad you can really help by buying period products, it’s one thing most girls really don’t want to do themselves. A period subscription has the advantage that the products are sent to you on a monthly or bi-monthly basis. Your daughter will realise that you really are prepared and understand and you will have the advantage of not having to run out to the 24 hour pharmacy or local kiosk when her period arrives unexpectedly.
A Pretty and practical Purse
Make sure your daughter carries in her school bag a purse (now that's an easy gift from a dad! HINT 😉) holding a few essential period products inside. This means 2 individually wrapped pads, 2 individually wrapped pantyliners and an extra pair of underwear because whilst a period arriving is inevitable it is also unpredictable! (and a tampon if, or as and when she uses them).
Only the 3'Ps
Only the 3 P’s go down the toilet - Pee, Poo and Paper. Make sure you have a bin (with a lid) in the bathroom. Ask your daughter if they have bins in the toilets at school. If there are no bins in the individual stalls then talk to the headmistress/master or teachers .. I live in a supposedly civilised part of the world but had to talk to the headmaster about making sure all stalls had bins. It's always a good idea to have a little paper bag in the purse just in case she finds herself in a situation where there is no bin in the bathroom and she needs to take her used products away with her. The worst thing to happen to a young (or old!) girl is to block the toilet by flushing period products because there was no where to throw them away.
She's worth It
Let your daughter know she must care for her period just like she cares for her general health. It is an important part of being a parent to educate our children about what they consume and period care is no different. The impact of using period products that are not good for the body or the planet (because the vast majority of pads and tampons bought in the supermarket today are not only packaged in but also made using plastic) is huge when you consider a woman will use 11,000 in her lifetime. At Mondays we believe that when you use period products that are good for your body, you also show that you value your body. Every month your daughter will put these products next to and /or inside a very important, absorbent and sensitive part of her body. The best products will allow the body to breathe and contain no perfumes or chemicals. So choose carefully. We recommend choosing organic cotton as it is nature’s most absorbent material (so it is effective) but contains no pesticides, bleach or other harmful chemicals.
Cool Dads know the best Apps
Get her an app to track her period, it means that she can begin to learn about her cycle and thus feel more in control and less surprised when her period comes. We would recommend an app that does not sell the data they collect .. like Clue or Period Tracker Flo.
Give her the gift of confidence
A Mondays Menarche Kit (First Period Kit) contains a range of period products, that are all made with certified organic cotton and have zero perfumes, bleach or chemicals in them. For many young women of today, it is also important to know that our products are vegan and cruelty-free. So if you find it difficult to start the conversation, how about gifting her a Mondays Kit so she knows that you are aware she is becoming a woman, that you have the confidence to talk about periods and you want to be a part of her life and development at this time. You can gift her a first period kit at any point, even when she is already menstruating - it is a very beautiful way to say you love her and understand.