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Re-framing the Period Discussion

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I was talking lately with some moms of tweens, and a couple of them mentioned that they are kind of dreading the discussion that they’ll need to be having soon with their daughters, in regard to the changes that a girl’s body goes through at puberty. They were especially not looking forward to talking with their daughters about getting their period.

It’s interesting,  I think,  that for some of us, the hardest part of having a period discussion with our daughters,  is actually the discussion we need to have inside our own heads, first, as mothers.

My daughter, in the middle,
with a couple of her besties.

Some of us see our daughter getting her period as a farewell to little girlhood. And, in a way, it kind of is. The passing of time can be so poignant, so bittersweet, even.

But as mothers, the things we say to ourselves on this issue can either paralyze us, cripple us, or enable us to offer our daughters the best perspective possible, while building our relationship with them, all at the same time.

As mothers, we are the chief role model in our young daughter’s lives, and so how we approach this topic really does set the tone for how our daughters will think about it, themselves. Will they see that we are embarrassed, and attach shame or fear to it? Or will they see the wonder and the beauty that are inherent in the way our bodies were designed? And will they learn positive ways to approach navigating the difficulties that are inherent in the process? As mothers, we set the tone!

Have you ever taken a print to a frame shop, and tried to find the perfect frame for it? The perfect frame can take the same picture, and change it from “blah” to “Awesome!”. The picture itself hasn’t changed. But the frame changes the way you see everything!

When you spend a little time in advance thinking about how you want to have the period discussion with your daughter, you get a chance to pick out the perfect frame! This frame will influence how you  present the information, and how your daughter will perceive the information.

So, when thinking about having a discussion with your daughter regarding her first period, if you find yourself grieving the loss of your daughter’s little girlhood, know that that is a perfectly normal, understandable feeling.  Watching a season of life begin to come to an end is a loss, so talk about those feelings with a friend, or with a group of girlfriends. You’ll discover you’re not the only one who’s ever felt that way. Then, once you’ve unloaded those feelings,  you’ll be ready to approach the discussion with your daughter in a different way.

To re-frame having this discussion for you, a little bit, I’d like to encourage you to take the long view of the discussion/discussions that you’re about to embark on as a mother. Assuming she doesn’t die, your daughter WILL grow up. That’s a fact of life. For you as her mother, this is a milestone in your daughter’s journey toward adulthood. What kind of role do you want to have in her life? Do you want, ultimately, for her to view you trustworthy, and as a reliable source of accurate information and wise advice? Do you want her to view you as her ally, and ultimately, by the time she reaches adulthood, as a true friend? These discussions are a golden opportunity for you to speak into her life, and build your relationship with her. Make the most of it!

You may remember that I mentioned in an earlier article that my mother never discussed the topic of my period with me, so I actually had no real-life role model on which to base my discussions with my own daughter. Another wrinkle in the process for me was that my daughter  is very private with her feelings. I knew that if I pushed too hard, I would push her away. In retrospect, I was very much this way with my own mom when I was a teen, so I could really relate to the feelings of embarrassment and shyness that my daughter demonstrated when personal topics came up. 

I’d encourage moms thinking about this topic to go ahead and open the dialog early, and take it in small doses, especially if your daughter is a shy one about private matters. First, you never know exactly when your daughter will get her period, and you certainly want to talk about it BEFORE she gets her period . If you begin these conversations early, before your daughter is ready to start her period, then discussing her body and the way it functions will not be a completely foreign topic of conversation. As your daughter matures, the conversation itself should evolve into becoming more concretely factual and detailed.
As you think about  how you’ll approach this topic, think back to some of your own experiences from when you were your daughter’s age, What questions did you have? Where did you take those questions? What do you wish you had known, or wish had been handled differently for you? It seemed surreal to me as an adolescent that my Mom could ever have been my age, but when she told me stories from when she was a girl, I found them to be quite revelatory! Thinking of my Mom as a girl who had to grow up, who didn’t always know all the answers, who struggled to find her way? These kinds of stories helped me to feel closer to my Mom, and to know her better. This is one of those paradoxical situations where sharing a weakness can actually strengthen a relationship.
Again, I can’t recommend strongly enough the American Girl book, The Care and Keeping of You, as a helpful tool for facilitating this discussion. The information is sound, but presented in a very kid-accessible format. The illustrations are friendly and light hearted. The chapters are divided into information regarding personal hygiene from head to toe, quite literally. I think this book is a perfect resource for a Mom to hold in her lap, and read and discuss with her Tween.

Another awesome resource is this page on the Kotex website. It offers helpful information and thoughtful ideas to help you prepare for the talk. It also has great tools you might want to take advantage of, like a calendar with facts about puberty, questions your daughter may ask, and different ways that might help you decide how you’d like to start the conversation.  You should check it out! 

The U by Kotex website  is another awesome resource, for when a tween would like to do a little research on her own, and, statistically, 50% of girls wish they knew more about their period. At the top of the navigation menu on the website, you’ll see a section called “Real Answers”. You can point out to your tween that in this section, every question that is posed is answered by three different people: a health expert, a Mom, and a peer. When last I checked, there were over a thousand questions that had been posed and answered. You can also find videos that would be very helpful for a girl beginning her cycle, such as “Using a Tampon for the Very First Time”. (Don’t worry! No actual skin shown, and really well done! I’m going to be sure my daughter watches it.)

So what about you? How are you feeling about beginning the period discussion with your daughter?

I wrote this review while participating in a Brand AmbassadorCampaign by Mom Central Consulting on behalf of U by KotexTween and received products to facilitate my post and a promotional item to thank me for taking the time to participate.