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5/9/22blog post

talking about puberty and periods with your child

It’s a struggle for any parent or child to ask questions when they are feeling embarrassed and looking for the right words to use. This is especially true when discussing topics such as puberty and menstruation.

So what can you do? For starters, you need to get information and prepare for the conversation. Below are tips to help you navigate your child’s journey by talking about periods.

Prepare early. Start the conversation early and slowly build on your child's understanding. The more your child knows about their body, the less confusing and embarrassing growing up will seem and the easier it will be to talk about.

All children need reliable information about puberty. It's appropriate to talk to your child about body functions, like periods, even if they won’t experience one.

  • For example, if your 4-year-old sees a tampon and asks what it's for, you could say, "People with a uterus bleed a little from their vagina every month. It's called a period. It isn't because they're hurt.  It happens because their body is maturing and going through puberty.  The tampon catches the blood so it doesn't go on their underwear."

Over the years, you can give your child more information as they are ready.

If your child doesn't ask questions about periods, you can bring it up. By the time they're six or seven years old, most kids can understand the basics of periods. Look for a natural moment to talk about it, such as:

  • When kids ask about puberty or changing bodies
  • If your child asks where babies come from
  • If you're at the store buying pads or tampons

Ask if your child knows about periods and puberty. Then, you can share basic information and answer any questions simply and directly. What you talk about depends on your child's age and level of development. Here are some questions that most kids have:

when do periods start?

Periods start for most children between 10 and 13 years old, and should start for all children with a uterus by 15 years old. The average age is 12, but everyone’s body has its own schedule. Puberty can start as early as 8 years old with breast development.  Signs of puberty include changes in body hair and hair in the groin and armpits, acne, rapid growth in height, and other body parts such as breasts. These changes occur at different stages and different rates.

what causes a period?

Periods happen because of changes in hormones in the body that are a part of puberty. Puberty causes hormones to increase in your body which results in periods, the development of pubic and armpit hair, breasts, and emotional changes, too.

how often will I get my period?

For the first year after your period start it may not happen regularly or every month. This is normal in the first year. By the second year of periods, it should happen about once a month. Talk to your doctor if it isn’t.

how long do periods last?

Periods usually last two to seven days. If bleeding lasts longer than seven days you should let your doctor know.

what is PMS?

Premenstrual syndrome, known as PMS, describes the emotional and physical symptoms that happen before or during a period. These symptoms can include quick mood changes, sadness, anxiety, bloating, and acne. They usually go away after the first few days of a period.

what if I have trouble talking to my kids about periods and body changes?

If you don't feel comfortable talking with your kids about periods and puberty, make sure they have another way to get this information. Maybe watching a video or reading a book together would be easier. You also can ask your doctor, nurse, school counselor, or a trusted family member to talk to your child.

when should I call the doctor?

Most people don't have any problems with their periods. But call the doctor if your child:

  • Is 13 and has not had a first period
  • Started developing breasts more than two years ago and has not had a period
  • Is more than one year from the first period and periods still do not come every 3–6 weeks
  • If periods were happening every month and now are less often (spacing out or missing periods), or have stopped
  • Has severe cramps, not relieved by ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin, or store brand) or naproxen (Aleve, Midol, or store brand)
  • Has very heavy bleeding (bleeding that goes through a pad or tampon faster than every two hours)
  • Has severe PMS that gets in the way of everyday activities

looking ahead

The more that kids understand about their bodies, the better they're able to make good, healthy choices. Make sure your child gets reliable information from you or another trusted source.


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