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Sunday, August 10, 2014

The talk (part I)


***Warning: content not for everyone.***
No discussion of rainbows and bunnies today, folks!
No... seriously. 

Over on the Q&A Catie wrote:

I have enjoyed your parenting posts so. You are an amazing mother. You need to write a book!

I have teenage sons, but (thankfully) all the puberty and sex talk has been hub's job. Our eldest daughter is thirteen. She got the talk at school two years ago, and we haven't discussed it very much. I know she will get her very first period soon, and I want her to be prepared and be comfortable approaching me with any questions. I know it's my job as her mother to make it less 'awkward' for her. I know she isn't comfortable discussing that stuff with me right now, and I want that to change. 

So Nancy, what are your "girl talk" tips for me?

And then Patty added this.

Great question, Catie! Nancy I came over to Q&A to request a certain recipe, but I think Catie's question is much more important than what I came for. 

I'm in the same boat as Catie. My daughter is thirteen and her first period is on the way, probably sometime this year. Should I (the mother) be the one initiating those conversations, or do I wait for her to approach me?


You cannot imagine how much an answer would mean to me and many other mothers out there that read your blog. Please? Pretty Please? With a cherry on top? Make it a whole jar of maraschino cherries

This is going to be the first of 2 posts on "the talk."  Ultimately, we're going to be talking about 2 different talks.  In reality they go hand in hand and are both a series of talks that we should be having with our growing children. 

First off, I don't make the period talk it a big deal.  Initially it is a big deal to my daughter, but I don't bring it up like it is. After all it's already a huge deal to your daughter at school when the boys and girls are separated into different classrooms. The pink elephant in the classroom.  You daughter certainly doesn't want to be another big deal.  I might suggest that the big talk coincides with the school talk and that you start with what she remembers about it.  Fill in the words and give her prompts if necessary.  The main objective is two fold, 1 to get her information and 2 to facilitate a discussion with you on an awkward topic.  

I think a book is a great idea too, one that you can give her to look at on her own.  The industry comes out with new ones so fast that I can't suggest one.  (Can reader comment with their favorites?  Maybe even include an Amazon link?)  

I thing I also suggest having "the talk" when you're driving her somewhere in the car with your daughter.  It helps put your daughter at ease to know you aren't staring at her while talking about her period.  And she also has the added benefit of knowing the awkward-for-her conversation will be over when you reach your destination.  it can't last forever. You have the benefit of a captive audience who can't flee the scene at the mention of words like tampon and vagina.  

Get vocabulary words like tampon and vagina in your and her vocabulary.  

Do tell your daughter what to do when accidents happen and how to get more supplies.  Does your family have a grocery list? Is she going to be comfortable writing these supplies on it?  

And no matter how you take care of you time of the month, give your daughter options.  

After you have the talk, go shopping together.  Peruse that isle at the drug store and see what's there.  The feminine hygiene isle shouldn't be a scary or unfamiliar place.   Create an emergency pack for her to carry in her backpack and go through it's contents.

And when Aunt Flo does start making her appearance, I'm not altogether opposed to celebrating.  I don't think we need to go all "first moon party" about it, but really, an ice cream cone outing just with mom and daughter and maybe any older daughter(s) too isn't necessarily a bad idea in my book. It's a whole new season of life after all and another opportunity to facilitate discussion.  

Really, I don't think there's any reason to talk to the school nurse or even your daughter's teacher when her period does start.  No need to embarrass her any more than she already is.  And from personal experience as a 5th and 6th grade teacher, we teacher all knew what Mrs. Jones, can I use the bathroom? meant. The eye contact said it all and middle school teachers and school nurses are on the look out for it already. 

Follow up in next few months with a few conversions about how it's going.  Accidents?  How's it going at school?  What's being talked about at school?  Which supplies work best for her?  What's not working? 

In the end, the period talk is just another discussion in a long series of hard talk that we need to have with our growing kiddos.  And the more we facilitate conversation the better... because even harder talks are coming... soon.

As women, most of us no longer have quilting bees and bridge parties to gather together an talk about such thing.  That leaves many of us with the internet.  I'm sure y'all have some fabulous suggestions too.  It takes a village folks, so woman to woman let's put our suggestions for "the period talk" down here in the comments, along with book suggestions that I mentioned above.)

Stay tuned for part II of the talk next week.  
Where it gets even harder!
Yikes!

30 comments:

  1. My two daughter are completely different. One has no problem telling me everything about it and what she needs. The other doesn't talk about it ever. When we go grocery shopping she slyly slips away to the isle and grabs what she needs. It works perfectly for us!

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  2. My two girls are completely different. One is completely upfront with me and tells me about it and let's me know exactly what she needs. The other doesn't like to talk about it with me, and I don't push it at all. Believe it or not, she didn't ever tell me she got her period. When we grocery shop, she slyly slips away to the feminine isle and gets what she needs and they magically appear in the cart. :) I don't say anything to her because it works for us perfectly!

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    1. Isn't it amazing how different they are! Neither of my oldest daughter, although for very different reasons, didn't request supplies either. I'd say they are both comfortable talking about it, but they just forget until it's too late. I just made it a point to keep them all stocked all the time. Which got costly and hard when there were 3 of us living here.

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  3. My sister actually wanted to help with this my daughter is 12 now will be thirteen in November...I think waiting to 13 may be too late...I started in 6th grade and some girls are already prego by 13. Last summer, the summer after the big 5th grade talk at school my sister had her for a week and did a Christian series with her called "Passport to Purity" with her. When she got back and in the car driving to camp I asked her a little about it. I asked her if kids at school were talking about sex yet, and she said they were not. I'm not sure I believe it because I remember what 5th and 6th grade was like. I just told her not to believe everything she hears and if something doesn't sound right ask me. Also as she headed to camp I had bought her the "teen pads" and had her pack a few, she also kept one in her backpack last year, because when I started in 6th grade I was unprepared and that was mortifying and there was no way I was going to the school nurse. I also hid my start from my family for a while. So if she was prepared I felt it would be less embarrassing. In addition to her getting our Christian values from my sister, a few impromptu talks from me, she is also in the Young Marines program where they occasionally talk about body issues. There are some great older girls that the youngers can talk to, and since they are closer in age they are more comfortable talking with them. Hope this helps..

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    1. I agree 13 is too late to start this talk. I grew up in a small conservative town and distinctly remember the girls talking about it starting in 5th grade. My own big girls, now 18 and 20, confirmed that the discussion between girls is starting in middle school. And I also didn't get the courage to tell my mom that my period started for a couple days. I was mortified to say anything. Thank you for adding, Stacey!

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  4. We adopted Quinn right before she aged out. There's no such thing as an easy older child adoption, but Quinn was on the easier side. I do no know if she had her period in China or not, but she got it two months after coming home. I went to the grocery store and got boxes and boxes of pads (no tampons because I could imagine her forgetting about it). I put pads on several pairs of underwair for her so she could just change her underwear every few hours. I let her start using tampons about three years later when she could verbally express that she wanted to try them.

    ~Donna DiGeorge

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    1. I cannot image going through an adoption and on top of it all (including the obvious language barrier) having to deal with a teenager with her period for the first time. I offer my girls tampons from the get go. But in your situation I think you did perfectly! I know that the girls at the orphanages we just visited were excited to get a pack of pads each. But I doubt they'd ever seen tampons. ---If we ever adopt again, it will be older child adoption. thank you for blazing the trail for us and putting it out there.

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  5. Ditto the Care and Keeping of You books by American Girl. I bought the first one for each of my girls when they were about 9, and every night took just that girl to my room to sit on my bed and read a chapter from the "you" book. It was a special time. They were so young that they didn't think it was weird and felt grown up to know some things that some of their friends didn't know yet.

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    1. I don't think 9 is too early at all. You hit the nail on the head, Dana, when you said "They were so young that they didn't think it was weird and felt grown up to know some things that some of their friends didn't know yet." And THAT facilitate ongoing communication
      in the future!

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  6. I don't have older girls (yet), but I've found that it's really easy to start discussions with our littler girls (ages 3 and 4). They still come into the bathroom with me at home sometimes and always when we're out, and at this age, they're very forthright about questions, so I just answer questions about body parts and what a period is and what various supplies are as they come up. I may be in the minority, but to me it seems easier and more natural to have continuing conversations as they are growing up, as opposed to one or two big talks when they're pre-teens. Of course I'm not certain of how those conversations will continue in the coming years(!), but at least right now, both of my girls talk about all this stuff without any sense of awkwardness, because we just talk about it in a similar way to talking about the weather or making dinner or whatever else. I'm hoping we'll be able to keep the conversations somewhat natural and not super uncomfortable as they get older.

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    1. Oh my gosh YES, Alison. There are prime times to keep the conversion going, like when the school has "the talk" with the girls already. Or when they get their first boy friend. Or when they start their period. Or when they get engages. Or as a wedding approaches... In my perfect world it all just progress as an ongoing conversation. At 3 and 4 the conversations are easier and do come about more organically, as they should. Then continue on and on adding more info as they ask and/or as need be. LUV LUV these thoughts!

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  7. I am a senior in college. My parents had my four big brothers and I, and years later adopted seven more from China. The eldest "little" is fourteen and in the awkward stage.
    I am tooting my own horn here. I so wish I had had a big sister when I was fourteen! One or two times a month a make an effort to take Caroline to Starbucks to chat one on one and talk about girl stuff. We usually run to CVS to get supplies afterwords. Our mom is a little older now, so it's just harder and more awkward for Caroline to talk to her than it was for me.
    That's what works for us! Tess and Mimi are lucky girls to have Sunny and Liv!

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  8. My kids (now 16) are twins and we homeschool. We did the talk at different times for each kid, depending on maturity. Ryan got his talk when he was 8, in third grade. Chuck took him out for a weekend at Six Flags and would slowly tell him info in the car and at the hotel room. Looking back on it, 8 was probably too young, but it worked out fine. Brooklyn is a little less mature than Ryan and not as "developed", so we waited until she was 14. There is no way she could have handled that info at 8. Even at 16, she has a completely flat chest (doesn't need a bra, but I ask her to wear them to get used to the feeling) and no hair on her legs, underarms, or genitals. Ryan, on the other hand, was pretty early with puberty and his voice changed when he was about 11. Brooklyn and I were on a mother daughter trip to London, so I took that as an opportunity to tell her. 14 is WWAAYY too late for most, but for Brooklyn it was the right age. That's the beauty of homeschooling.

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    1. Even late maturing girls have peers who aren't, and are likely talking about this, or listening ot other kids talk about the tough stuff by middle school. Even in a good way. It's just what girls do at this age. I'm not saying that it's all nasty talk and bad info, but I do think that middle school girls starting at 10-11, are talking about it, or at a bare minimum listening to their peers talk about it. Whether it be at church, school, the park, slumber party, family gathering... Or at least this is what happened when I grew up and my own girls have confirmed is still going on 25 years later. But you're very right, with homeschooling you likely come across far less opportunities for this to happen. It's wonderful that you recognize the differences in your children and parent them accordingly! I always find that part a balancing act.

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  9. My sons are 13 and 15, and my daughter is 6. I wish I could give her the talk now. It's be better and it would start ongoing communication between my daughter and I. The reason I can't is because she would go tell her brothers what I told her. :) I know this because she tells them what gift she got them for their birthdays. :) As soon as she stops spoiling the birthday gifts, I'll tell her :)

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    1. I think there are a lot of parts of the talk that you can be having with her now as she asks. 6 year old are curious naturally. And it she tells her brothers so be it! At 13 and 15 years old it's information they should know already anyway.

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  10. Many firs time mothers of tween girls would hate hearing what I'm about to say. My daughters' friends know even more about periods than I do and it takes a huge load off of my shoulders. My responsibility is to make sure she is set on supplies, not teach her about it. I leave the teaching up to big sisters and friends. I tell my daughters to let me tell them about sex, not their friends.

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  11. Since my 6-year old is and always has been like velcro to me, she's been in the bathroom right with me many times, so she's known the words vagina, period, bleed, and tampon for probably too long. From that and some moderately simply info. about how babies grow and come out (haven't gotten into how they're made exactly) came the classic Bea quote, from when she was about 4, "since I'm gonna adopt a baby, is my vagina gonna close up?" I personally agree with Alison. If it's part of conversation from early on, it's never a big deal and a big talk is never really needed, just adding bits and pieces as they ask more questions. I always go with the advice that I give other parents as a school counselor though, which is to give minimal info. and add to it as they ask for more. If they stop asking, that's enough info. for the moment. And you can always add info, but can't ever take it back.

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    1. I think you're dead on Michelle! And I'll add one thing... at a certain point, they usually do stop asking even though their still curious. I'd say this starts sometime in middle school. and also when they start to turn to their friends and YouTube and the www for answers. So around that age, I DO get more proactive with the talks and start up the conversations with them even if they don't want to talk about it. I do it when something in life happens that goes with it already and occasionally out of the blue if it needs to happen. I want the info to come from us rather than YouTube. Or course they'll still likely to look it up on the www not matter what if they want to. But at least I got the opportunity to build that foundation first.

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  12. If I had waited until my daughter was 13, I'd have been 3 years too late. I told her the basics of menstruation and human reproduction when she was 6 or 7 (I did teach human anatomy to 11th and 12th graders many years back. My opinion is that when they are young, they are more receptive to the conversation and ask questions more easily.) I gave her more details of how to handle things again when she was 10 (as I noticed signs of physical maturity). I stashed a variety of supplies of different brands in a gift bag and tucked it in the back of my closet for her. She knew where it was when she needed it, but it wasn't hanging around the kids' bathroom for her siblings to find. I also threw in a journal, some cute pens, lip gloss, and a new pair of earrings, and a little purse/wristlet to carry her supplies in…. that she didn't know about until she needed to use it. It sounds silly, but she loved finding the surprise.

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    1. Would you be MY mom? Really... SO awesome!

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    2. Oh I LOVE this idea!! I have really enjoyed this thread. As a "new mom" back in the "field" of "periods, boys , sex and dating", I will need this refresher course for future reference. Keep the great ideas coming!!

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  13. First periods just love to come at the worst possible time. My friend's daughter got it a week after her 9th birthday, after showing no signs of physical maturity. My niece was ahead of most of her peers, but got her period when she was 17, despite the dr. telling her she would be 12 when it comes. :) I chose 7 as the right age so that, just in case, she would be ready.

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  14. I graduated from college a year ago and I teach 7th and 8th grade history at our local Christian school. Even though I have only been teaching a year now, I have learned to keep lots of supplies locked up in my desk. There are several girls who live with their dad and just can't tell them they have their period (not that I blame them!) and rely on me for supplies. It gets expensive, but I don't mind one bit. Anything to save them from the cardboard tampons in the bathrooms. :)
    Question: Do you know of anywhere I can get pads and tampons in bulk? Right now I buy the packs of about 40, but do they sell a couple hundred anywhere?

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    1. Mia, as a former middle school teacher in the inner city... I LOVE what you're doing! Ya it goes under the category of more reasons teachers don't get paid enough.
      My knee jerk reaction for bulk feminine supplies was Costco or Amazon. amazon would deliver right to your home and save you an extra errand at least.

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  15. I am mom to triplets Kevin, Dusty, and Emma. They all share a bathroom. When Emma does get her period, I just don't know what we will do as far as disposal of tampons/pads goes. Emma clearly won't want Kevin and Dusty to see her used supplies.
    How much do you tell your husband about your daughters? I know by now he has assumed Sunny and Livy have their periods, but did you specifically tell him when they got them? Do you think it is good to know they have it, or it is better to 100% respect their privacy?

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  16. Sabina, I do tell their dad that their period has started. But for no other reason that he's "gets" what's going on just in case something out of the ordinary happens. We work off the premise that knowledge is good in most all circumstances. It's really no big deal and I want the girls to know that too. Their period doesn't need to be a secret or hidden or taboo. It just is. And keeping it a secret from their dad would kinda IMO make it seem like it's some thing to hide and keep a secret. Besides, dad goes grocery shopping sometimes too and has to get supplies. So he'd kinda know even if I didn't tell him. Not that I make a big deal about it at all. And one of the boys empties trashes. Not that I tell our sons. It's just part of life.

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  17. I did some absolutely humiliating things as a result of not getting the talk until 5th grade. I guess I thought "sex" was another word for "gender". We were recently at my parents' house, and my mother had dug up an old paper of mine from third or fourth grade. The teacher was a Mr. I wrote something along the lines of "At this age it is hard to be friends with boys without worrying about sex and cooties." What I meant was "that everyone thinks that boys have cooties because they are boys and girls think that boys are gross", but it came out the wrong way. The teacher just wrote, " ! " on my paper.
    I also remember specifically asking a boy in my class if they had those dispensers in the boys' bathroom.
    And when I was about 10 we went to a cabin with family friends who had a daughter my age. She told me that every month women's bottoms bleed and men don't do that until they are 30. I told her it was not true, and finally I marched over my father and asked him. He, of course, acted like he didn't know anything about that and told me it wasn't true (which is half right). I also asked him once if non-married women can have boy babies or just girls because there isn't the man DNA in the baby. I guess I thought babies magically appear.
    This is why I gave my daughters the talk in 2nd grade. I did not want them to make the same mistakes I made that later made me want to strangle myself. :) Teaching them early doesn't spoil their innocence. It reduces their ability to say things they don't know about!

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  18. It is best to tell them when they are younger... 9 is what works for us. At that age, they won't be freaked out that they could get it at any moment. It gives them time to understand that, yes, it will happen, but just not for a few years.
    My eldest got it a few weeks after her 9th bday. We were taken by surprised when she came running to us one morning because she "woke up with blood in her underwear". I was so shocked because I was 16 when I got mine. I only use tampons and I had nothing for her. I (yes I did.) got pulled over for speeding to Walgreens. I pleaded with the officer that "my baby needs something at Walgreens and she is hurting". LOL

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  19. I'm catching up on blog reading and coming to this late but wanted to ditto the recommendations for AG's Care and Keeping of You book and to not wait for your girls to ask questions. I'm not a mother but in my late 20s and still learning about my body. My mother didn't talk about this stuff much. I think I could count our conversations on one hand. She gave me all the vital basics but there were other little things that I didn't want to ask or didn't know to ask about. Just a few years ago I found the aforementioned book at the library. I felt silly reading a book meant for preteens but appreciated having my little nagging questions answered and to be reassured that I was normal. I remember thinking it was very nicely written and that it would be good for my own girls someday. I think a good process for especially shy girls (such as I was) would be to provide the book and allow them to read it alone and not speak with them about it until later after they've had time to process. It might take a few weeks; I know it would have with me!

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