You’re probably thinking, “Whoa, wait a minute…I’m all for this period education stuff but isn’t this a better conversation between mother and daughter?” As a dad of two daughters, I hope to see this cultural sentiment change in my lifetime. Here’s why.
Period taboo: it’s complicated
I get it. As a man, it feels awkward, unnatural even, to talk to a daughter about her period. Let’s think for a moment why we collectively feel this way.
For starters, periods are already a touchy topic even between women. From a young age, girls are conditioned to believe periods are embarrassing and shameful. Add the opposite gender to the mix and the topic feels even more fraught.
Traditionally, our society has preferred each gender discuss its respective area of biological expertise. And, while that division of labor makes some logical sense, it has created unnecessary suffering for our children. Consider this example a woman shared about her own first period experience:
“As a young teen, I remember feeling that there were certain topics I could not broach with my father and my period was one of them. Actually, when I first started my period, I was home alone with my dad. I panicked and cried in the bathroom because even though I obviously knew what it was at the age of 13, it was still a bit shocking and scary for me to see. I found the pads in my mom’s bathroom and waited until she was home from work to say anything. I’m sure if I told him, my father would have said to wait for her anyway.”
It doesn’t have to be this way for your daughter. Having different anatomy shouldn’t disqualify a parent from answering questions children have about their bodies. While these discussions may feel uncomfortable now, they will make life smoother for you both when your daughter’s period arrives.
Like the anecdote above underscores, a dad needs to be ready for whatever happens. Mom may not be around when your daughter starts her period. So, you need to make certain your daughter understands you’ll support her and she need not be ashamed about discussing periods with you. And for single dads and gay fathers raising daughters, laying this groundwork is even more critical.
Dads and period talk: how to do it
First, let me set one thing straight. I’m not suggesting you discuss periods with your daughter instead of having her talk to her mother or another supportive woman in her life. But you should be able to supplement her understanding and affirm your commitment to supporting her, both practically and emotionally when the big day arrives.
In this post, we discussed the concept of period normalization. Capitalize on opportunities for discussion when your kids ask questions about their bodies. Making these types of conversations an ongoing, frequent part of life will help negate the embarrassment your daughter feels about discussing her changing body.
Aside from making these talks routine, fatherly.com has some sound period discussion tips for dads:
- You won’t know all the answers, and that’s OK. It’s more important your daughter knows she can ask the questions. Your goal is to provide the best emotional support for her that you can.
- Provide your daughter with educational materials about her period, like books about menstruation and puberty.
- When discussing periods, use plain, anatomically-factual language. Avoid euphemisms.
- Find a female relative or friend that your daughter can talk to about her period and her changing body.
- Help your daughter understand that as she develops into a woman, she’ll receive attention that she isn’t used to. Let her know she can talk about that with you, her mom, or any other supportive woman in your lives.
This piece in Esquire shares some wisdom from the co-founder of Lola, Alex Friedman. Lola sells organic cotton feminine hygiene products through a subscription-based model online. Friedman says, “The thing is, it’s a human conversation. It’s not just a conversation that women have. We have parents, we have kids, we have spouses, we have other people in our lives, and we need to be fluent in the very basics that happen in our lives, periods included.”
I couldn’t agree more, and I have the perfect resource to help you get started. The Penny Pack facilitates period teaching between parents and daughters. It’s our goal to change the menstruation conversation, to bring period discussions into the light, and to treat periods as a regular fact of life, rather than a shameful condition to hide. Armed with this knowledge and a healthy mindset, your daughter will be ready for her first period and confident that she can handle whatever comes her way.