Talking about periods to your toddler or young child might not exactly be at the top of your to-do list. It might not even be something you’ve ever considered before; after all, young children don’t need to know about the menstrual cycle, and some people might argue that it’s so inherently connected to adulthood and sex that it’s wrong to tell children about it at all. Here are nine reasons, however, why you might in fact want to consider talking with your young son or daughter about the menstrual cycle:
For your own sake:
1. Bathroom privacy and less stress!
Have you ever wished that you could have just a few minutes in the bathroom alone, without your toddler in tow, so that you could deal with all things period-related in peace? If your little one understands something of the process your body is going through, they can understand why you want some privacy, and they’ll be much happier to give you those few minutes alone, which means less stress for you!
2. No more hiding!
Some mums end up feeling that they should hide away anything related to periods, keeping all products tucked away in drawers or deep in pockets of handbags, because they don’t want their child to see them and ask awkward questions at inopportune times. (What mother relishes the idea of their child pulling something out of their handbag in a café, waving it about, and saying loudly, ‘What’s this, Mummy?’) Similarly, mums might feel that they need to hide the fact that they have cramps so their child doesn’t worry, or they might take painkillers secretly so their little one doesn’t think they’re sweets and want some too, and so on. If your child knows about periods, all of this becomes much easier for you to deal with.
For your child right now:
3. Maintaining a sense of security and love:
If your young child wants to follow you into the bathroom and you tell them they can’t come in, they can feel hurt and rejected; to them, it might feel like Mummy doesn’t want to be with them, and they can’t understand why. Alternatively, if you do let them come with you, some children might be scared if they see blood. If your child understands what periods are, both of these problems are avoided, and they feel neither rejected, nor scared or worried.
4. Increased empathy:
If your little one understands that at certain times you might be in pain or that you might not feel like playing so energetically, it can help to increase their empathy, which is such an important characteristic to develop early on. If your son or daughter learns that even their super-hero Mummy sometimes needs to be cared for and shown extra love, then this will help them develop into someone who can be gentle, kind, and considerate.
5. Increased understanding of bodies and how they work:
Children love to learn about bodies; they love to learn what our bodies are made of, how we digest food, pump blood around, breathe, move, fight disease, grow, and everything else. The menstrual cycle is a biological process like so many others, and children often find it interesting to learn about, plain and simple!
For your child in the future:
6. Preventing unhealthy misconceptions:
It’s surely a good thing for both girls and boys to develop an accurate, healthy, and positive understanding of women’s bodies from a young age. If they don’t do so, there’s a much higher chance that unhealthy or even harmful ideas can take root in their minds – ideas garnered from playground talk, questionable online sources, or elsewhere. If you don’t want your child to grow up thinking that periods are dirty, wrong, or weird, and you don’t want them believing various period-related myths, then you might want to consider helping them to understand and accept periods as a normal part of life from a young age.
7. Learning more easily about puberty and sex:
If a child already knows about the menstrual cycle, then when they’re older and the time comes for them to learn about puberty, sex and fertility, it’s much easier for them to understand it all, and quite frankly, for some children the whole idea will come as less of a shock! If a child already has a positive understanding of periods, then learning about how and why bodies change, and how the DNA of a man joins with that of a woman to create a new human being, is just a natural development of concepts they already have.
8. Being better-equipped to understand and support particular social or environmental issues:
Certain issues surrounding periods struggle to gain recognition or support precisely because they relate to periods, and people prefer to avoid talking about them. If your child has grown up knowing about periods, then understanding issues such as period poverty, or understanding the significance of the environmental advantages of products such as ‘period pants,’ and perhaps even working to alleviate related problems, becomes much easier for them.
For your and your child’s relationship, now and in the future:
9. Increasing your ability to talk honestly with each other:
Talking honestly but appropriately with your son or daughter about your body and your experiences improves your relationship because through your own example, you teach your child very clearly that it’s ok to talk to you about personal things – so they are more likely to feel that they can talk to you about their own body, as well as about other personal and sensitive things such as worries, fears, wishes, and hopes. Being able to talk honestly with their parent(s) or carer(s) is necessary for both girls and boys to grow up feeling loved, known, and secure; talking openly about periods with your child can contribute to the development of just such a strong, trusting relationship.
A helpful tool!
10.’Why Does Mummy’s Tummy Hurt?’
You may now be thinking that talking with your young child about the menstrual cycle would be a good idea, but you might be feeling a bit unsure of how to go about it. No.10 on the list is therefore not a reason to talk about periods with your child, but instead is a tool you can use to help you start the conversation – and that tool is a short, beautifully illustrated book called, Why Does Mummy’s Tummy Hurt? This little-known gem of a picture book is a charming poem specifically designed to explain the menstrual cycle to children aged 3-6. It explains both the biology of the cycle, as well as the human side of it – Mummy’s tummy hurting, and Mummy wanting some time alone in the bathroom, for example! Reviews on Amazon attest to its ‘sensitivity, truth, and gentleness,’ with parents and carers saying they ‘warmly recommend it,’ and that they ‘wish it had existed when [their] eldest was little.’ Perhaps you might find it helpful too!
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