Hi dads and father-figures alike! We’re here to talk menstruation. As much as periods are a teenage right of passage, they’re also a big deal for parents too. Nervous? Don’t be. We’re experts at talking about periods, so you’re in good hands.
If you’re feeling a bit awkward when it comes to talking about menstruation, you’re not alone. According to a survey done by Hey Girls in 2019, 59% of dads don’t feel comfortable talking about periods with their kids and 40% never learned about them in school. So let’s make sure you’re comfortable with periods first. Notebooks ready? Hope you’re paying attention, there’ll be a test at the end (kidding)!
What’s a period?
Most people have periods between the ages of 12 and 50. A period is just one part of the menstrual cycle. Every month or so the body preps to have a baby, and so the ovary releases an egg. If the egg is not fertilized, the comfy uterine lining that was building up is no longer needed—so it sheds! This is a combo of blood, mucus and tissue that makes up the “period”. Think it’s a little gross? Well, people who have periods are powerful! They have to do this every! month!
Dad Period Pointers:
- Most periods last around 5 days, but this is different for everyone.
- It can take a bit of time for your kid to settle into their period! Periods typically happen every month, but newcomers can take a few years to adjust to their cycle.
How do I know when their first period is coming?
Ah sorry dad! We’d love to give you an exact date (perhaps the eve of their 12th birthday would be helpful) but the only set rule here is that everyone is different!
Their first period will hit sometime during puberty, and usually happens around the age of 12. But some get it as early as 8, and it’s not super uncommon for it to happen as late as 15 either. Kids who start their period earlier or later than those in their friend group might worry about not being “normal”, but you can reassure them that everyone experiences their period differently. Also, at the end of the day what teenager is normal anyway?
Dad Puberty Pointers:
Although it’s impossible to know exact timing of their first period’s arrival, there are some tell-tale puberty signs to look out for that include:
- Growth spurt! (When did they get so tall?)
- Armpit hair! (They might want to keep it or they might want to get rid of it. Support whatever choice! Woo! Body autonomy!)
- Acne! (You’ve probably been there too!)
- Mood swings (It’s not you! It’s the hormones!)
How do I talk to my kids about periods?
We think it’s important to talk to your kids about periods, regardless of whether you have a daughter or not! Here are some things to remember.
Talking to your daughters
Periods mark a pretty big change in their lives and so you’ll want to remind them that what they’re experiencing is super normal! Also encourage them to talk about it. Because periods are so normal, remind them that there’s nothing to be embarrassed about. Periods aren’t gross or dirty, and talking about them shouldn’t be done secretly. They’re just part of life! Just letting them know that you’re there for them goes a long way.
It’s also worth it to mention that if they’re not feeling right about their period (mentally, emotionally or physically) it’s totally okay to speak up. Encourage them and let her know it’s alright to need help from a doctor if the pain is really bad or if they’re moodier than usual.
Talking to your non-binary or trans kids
Periods can sometimes be really difficult for kids whose gender identity doesn’t align with being “female”. If your kid doesn’t identify with being a woman (often what a period symbolizes), getting their period can feel really confusing or upsetting. Puberty is hard in general, but not being cisgender can make it feel much tougher!
It’s helpful to remind them of the golden period rule: not all women get their periods, and not everyone that gets their period is a woman (you can read more about it here). Ultimately, a period doesn’t define a person. Let them know they’re not alone, and start looking into some more gender-neutral period protection for them. Often packaging and marketing for tampons and pads can be a bit girly, so lean into products like Period Underwear to make them feel more comfortable.
Talking to your sons
If half the population gets their period, we’re firm believers that the other half should know the details too! Educating boys is just as important when it comes to getting rid of period stigma. You might not want to get into the details of it all (they’ll learn about the science aspect in school), but we encourage you to talk to them about why periods aren’t gross, they’re normal. Also, if they have a sister going through puberty, encourage them to relax on the teasing. Periods can be a tough time, and a little kindness goes a long way.
So, when do I have the period talk?
Anytime! If you have a female partner or another relative you’re comfortable crafting a game plan with, feel free to ask how to have the convo together (or a gentle tag-team works too). Sitting your kid down for one big monumental talk might feel a bit intimidating for both you and them so here’s our approach: it doesn’t have to happen all at once, and you can ease into it when you can.
Someone on TV mentions their period? There’s your in! Shopping together and you pass the pad/tampon aisle? Perfect time for a quick convo. The more casual you are about it, the more likely they’ll be more comfortable chatting to you about it too.
How do I be supportive when they get their period?
Get the goods: There are a few methods of period protection, and stocking up on all kinds is super helpful!
Pads tend to be a good starter when it comes to period protection (super easy to use), but they may want to try tampons too. There are also menstrual cups which are really safe and good for the environment. Not sure? No problem! Have them check out our guide to tampons here and our guide to menstrual cups here.
Prep for backup: When we say backup, we mean all the other ways you may be able to make your kid feel better. Their favorite meal, watching their favorite movie, or letting them hang out with their pals are all great ways to be supportive. If they just need alone time, that’s great too.
Make a starter kit: Luckily, KT has you covered on this one so it’s super easy. Leaking blood on their period can be a huge part of period anxiety (especially at school), so make sure they’re prepped with a period kit that includes 5 pairs of Period Underwear. They’ll feel more comfortable, which will make you feel more comfortable too! Throw some of their favorite candy in there, and you’re good to go.
Just remember, everything is a learning process! Do your best, do your research, and be patient and open. You got this. Go dad!