Tips For Having The “Other Talk” With Your Daughter
When I was about twenty weeks into my third pregnancy, an ultrasound revealed that we would soon be welcoming our third daughter. As we drove home and let the information sink in, I had this conversation with my husband.
Husband: “When you shared that apartment in college with three other girls, didn’t you all end up on the same menstrual cycle? Doesn’t that happen when a bunch of women live together?”
Me:”Well, not necessarily, but it can happen.”
Him: “So theoretically, when our three girls are older, you could all four have PMS at the same time?”
Me: “Yes, I suppose so, but that’s a long way away.”
Him: “Yeah, well, just so you know, I’m going to be gone on a business trip anytime that happens!!”
All parents know that, eventually, they will have to have the “birds and bees” talk with their kids. Since I have daughters, I knew that I was also going to have to have “The Other Talk” as well. You know, the one about menstruation. Truthfully, I found this “Other Talk” to be just a scary as the sex talk and, though I originally thought it was a long way away, it came around much faster than I anticipated.
When should I have it? What should I say? I scoured the internet for answers and really didn’t find much that was helpful. I did get some information from a few other moms and our pediatrician. When the window of opportunity opened with my oldest, I jumped in and had the talk. I survived and so did my oldest daughter. Now, I’ve had this discussion with my middle daughter as well and we both survived that one, too! Two down and one to go!!
Lots of my mom friends who have younger girls have asked me questions and requested advice. Just like I was, they are nervous about having the conversation. So, here are some tips that worked for me and that will, hopefully, help others as well.
1. Don’t Panic – Having some basic facts might help with this one. According to WebMD, in the United States, girls get their first period on average at the age of 12. Of course, that means it could be sooner or it could be later. (A lot of girls tend to start their periods around the same time as their biological mothers.) You can also look for some other signs of impending womanhood. KidsHealth.org says that a girl’s first period usually occurs 2-2 1/2 years after she starts developing breasts and that, about 6 months before her first period, most girls will see pubic hair and a mucousy vaginal discharge. So, if you haven’t seen any of these signs yet, you have some time. Take a deep breath. If you have seen these signs, see #2 immediately.
2. Don’t wait too long – Sometimes, we put off things we anticipate to be unpleasant, but this is one time where that is not an option. Do you remember this scene from the 1991 movie “My Girl?”
Since Vada’s father hadn’t had the menstruation talk with her, she goes to the bathroom, thinks she is hemorrhaging, and freaks out! None of us want that to happen to our daughters in the middle school restroom, so be proactive and do it sooner rather than later no matter how apprehensive you may feel.
3. Set aside a designated time – My oldest once asked about it in the car when my younger two were within earshot as well. I told her we would talk about it later, and we did. I found a time when I could take her into my room and sit down with her alone and uninterrupted. I think this made both of us feel more comfortable and more free to talk openly.
4. Be Honest – I think this may be the most important one. If your daughter is old enough to be discussing menstruation, she is old enough to hear and use proper terms like “vagina” and “ovaries.” When she asks questions like, “Does it hurt?” give her truthful answers. The whole point is to make sure she is prepared and if you aren’t 100% honest, she won’t be.
5. Be Ready – Menstruation is directly related to childbirth and childbirth is directly related to sex. When I had the discussion with my daughter, I was hoping to escape the birds and bees talk. I did, but just by the skin of my teeth and questions led to that conversation very soon after. When you talk about menstruation, you may have to go down that road – all the way down that road -whether you are ready or not.
6. Offer other avenues of information – Especially if your daughter still seems uncomfortable, offer to get her some books or look up some things together on the computer. I also reminded my daughter that I am not the only one she can talk to. I made sure she knows that her grandmothers, her teachers, and even her dad can answer questions and help her if she needs it. However, I reminded her to be sure she is getting information from reliable sources (i.e. not friends) and that she shouldn’t try to look it up on the computer without a grownup.
7. Be supportive – Fortunately for me, my daughter seemed to take it all in stride. Some girls might not have a such a laid back reaction, though. They might be scared or apprehensive about these imminent body changes. Reassure them and make sure they know you will be there to answer any questions they have right then or in the future.
So, have you had this “other” talk with your daughter? Do you have any tips to add to the list?
Lisa Witherspoon is a mom to three amazing daughters and wife to a traveling salesman husband. She is also a freelance writer and a blogger at The Golden Spoons where she shares the joys, frustrations, chaos, and laughter of motherhood. Lisa’s work has been published on Mamapedia, ScaryMommy, Mamalode, and The Huffington Post. She is also a contributing Author to the anthology, The Mother Of All Meltdowns.