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Period talk: How to talk about periods with your kids

Updated November 2022 | 4 min read
Expert contributor Kirstin Bouse, psychologist 
Words by Rachel Smith

Having the period talk can be awkward for parents and kids, yet it's an important one to address at the right time. Here are some tips on how to talk about periods comfortably with your kids.

Explaining and dealing with menstruation, also know as periods, for the first time is a parenting milestone most families face – whether we like it or not. If you’re a mum, it may have been decades since you fumbled with your first sanitary pads or tampons. If you’re a dad, talking to your children about periods may be no big deal – or it might seem a little daunting. So how do we talk about periods with our kids?

“I think both parents need to be very matter-of-fact about it,” says psychologist Kirstin Bouse. “Both mums and dads have a huge role to play in treating it as a natural part of life and not something you should have any shame about.”

Girls can start menstruating as young as nine, or as late as 16. Most often it’s around the age of 11 or 14.

“The most important thing for parents to know is that we’re the ones who set the tone,” says season two host of our Navigating Parenthood podcast, Rebecca Sparrow. “The more comfortable we can be in talking to our kids about periods, the more comfortable they’ll be in discussing any issues or concerns they have with us.”

How to talk about periods with your daughter

Primary schools start to educate kids with age-appropriate information on puberty and periods by age nine or 10, but it’s up to parents to lay the groundwork, says Kirstin.

Your daughter needs to know what’s going to happen in her body before she experiences her first period.

When having the period talk with your daughter, make sure you:

  • keep it light-hearted
  • share something personal to create a safe, comfortable environment
  • give your daughter time to ask questions.

During the conversation, there are a few points to cover, like:

  • what is a period and how often periods come
  • how much blood to expect and how many days the bleeding will likely last
  • whether periods hurt and how to stop period pain
  • whether they should use tampons or sanitary pads and how to use and dispose of them correctly
  • what to do if they get their period away from home, like at school or camp
  • whether they can swim with their period.

“Pack a period kit in your daughter’s school bag just in case,” advises Rebecca. “And once your daughter turns 10, I’d think about setting up a period station in the bathroom at home so she has easy access to pads, a bin and spare underwear.”

It’s also important your child understands what’s going to happen in their body before they experience their first period. Here’s how to explain it.

  • The menstrual cycle, also known as a period, is a cycle of bodily changes controlled by hormones that cause a regular bleed, usually monthly. This bleed comes from the uterus (womb) and leaves the body from the vagina.
  • The role of a period is to prepare the body for pregnancy. When a pregnancy doesn't happen, you'll get a period. But it’s important to remember that every woman’s period is different.

If your child feels uncomfortable and doesn’t want to have the conversation, “books like Welcome to Your Period by Yumi Stynes and Dr Melissa Kang are a great resource for girls to have in their bedroom,” Rebecca suggests. These books may help them find answers to some questions they may have but are too embarrassed to ask.

We need to remember to include all young people in our period talk. Teaching young boys about periods will help them develop an understanding towards what they are, how they impact the female body and how they can help if someone close to them needs it.

“For example, young boys often have this image of a period being like an open wound that’s bleeding profusely,” Kirstin explains.

“When we don’t tell our boys about periods and how they impact girls, we rob them of the chance for them to be allies to the girls and women in their lives,” Rebecca says. “I want to raise sons who know to offer a girl a jumper to tie around her waist if she has an accident at school, or be comfortable buying pads or tampons if necessary.”

Misconceptions about periods

Being freaked out about periods or unsure of what’s involved in having one is extremely common for young children. Some of the most common misconceptions about periods are:

  • they're always at the same time every month
  • period blood is different from regular blood
  • everyone’s cycle is 28 days
  • irregular periods are bad for your reproductive health
  • you can’t get pregnant on your period.

Keep having the conversation about periods

The first conversation you have with your child about periods should be the first of many, says Kirstin, especially if they suffer with premenstrual syndrome (PMS) or uncomfortable period pain. It’s important your child can talk to you about any unusual symptoms. Very heavy bleeding and extreme pain can be signs of a medical condition like endometriosis and may be worth exploring with a GP.

“The early stages are a walk in the park for some girls and excruciating and difficult for others, so staying involved and teaching them that ‘yes, periods are normal but they can also have an impact on your life and need to be managed’, is key,” Kirstin says.

Don’t forget to stay educated about modern period products, too – from leak-proof period underwear to reusable menstrual cups and apps that track your period patterns, so your child knows when to expect their flow each month.

Rebecca adds that it’s important to teach your child about self-care. “When she gets her period in those early days, celebrate rather than commiserate. Treat her to a cute hot water bottle, some chocolate and a feel-good movie on the couch with you.”

Online resources for parents having the period talk



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