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Dr Nihara Krause, Consultant Clinical Psychologist
Talking to boys about periods is a key part of parenting. At ﬁrst, it may feel awkward, but having open conversations will help them understand that periods are normal, healthy and nothing for girls to be ashamed of.
Here’s some advice on how to talk to your son about puberty and help him understand what periods mean for girls.
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Start conversations early
It’s important to start explaining puberty - and the changes boys & girls go through - early on - ideally before he, or others in his class, start to experience it.
Explaining puberty to your son is the perfect time to introduce the concept of periods. Tell him that girls and boys experience many similar things – such as getting taller, growing hair under the arms and in the pubic area, and feeling new emotions – but that some things are different. For example:
Show him period products
As part of the puberty talk with your son, introduce him to the kind of products a girl might use during her period – pads, tampons, period pants and menstrual cups.
To ease any awkwardness he may feel, take him down the ‘period product’ aisle when shopping, then ask him to put away products when you get home. As he does so, unwrap some of the products and explain how they work.
Talk about PMS
An important part of explaining puberty to your son is to talk about pre-menstrual symptoms that a girl may experience, such as cramps, headaches and bloating.
Tell him that a girl may also feel more sensitive in the run-up to her period and that he shouldn’t take this personally – it might just be to do with her changing hormones.
Explain that it’s important for boys and girls to support each other through puberty, and be mindful of each other’s feelings.
If words like ‘uterus’ and ‘vagina’ are new to him, make sure you clearly explain their meaning.
While you might need to explain any slang terms he’s heard, like ‘on the rag’ and ‘Aunt Flo’, use the correct terminology to avoid perpetuating the idea that periods are to be kept hidden or ashamed of.
Talk to him about having a quiet word with a girl to let her know if she’s leaked on her skirt, rather than commenting on it to his friends.
Explain that making jokes about periods or teasing a girl because you see pads or tampons in her bag is not a nice way to behave and can make a girl very upset.
Avoid any language that inadvertently makes menstruation sound negative or in any way dirty.
If he asks a question when you’re busy – or if you don’t have the answer – don’t brush it off. Respond as best you can and, if necessary, come back to it later.