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How do you talk about your period with the kids?

Menstruating is just part of womanhood.  For a child, though, it can be a little foreign until we explain some part of it.  An urbanMama Pam emailed, wondering how/if you've addressed this reality with the kids?

I'm looking for advice/ideas on how to discuss menstruation with a 5-year-old boy. Is it too early to explain it to him? I try to be reasonably discrete with my "supplies" but of course he sees them and wonders what they are for. I tell him it's something for women's bodies, but I can tell he's wanting more info.

I'd love to hear how other moms have dealt with kids finding supplies or seeing blood in the toilet. Or explaining the little garbage can in public stalls after they opened it and looked inside (ugh!).

Yesterday at Fred Meyer we were walking to the parking lot and he found my bag of pads and held them up and asking loudly "mom, what are these for anyway?"

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I'm guessing this won't suit everyone's comfort level, but I've decided to just tell my 4.5 year old daughter the straight facts on what all this stuff is for. I make it as simple as I can -- "Women have something called a uterus, it's where you grew when you were in my belly. The uterus' main job is to grow a baby, but if there is no baby there, then once a month the uterus gets rid of all the blood that it's been storing up to prepare for a baby. When the blood comes out, I have to use a tampon/pad/cup/whatever to catch it. It doesn't hurt." My daughter is fascinated with how the human body works anyway, so menstruation is just another cool thing that happens (I'm sure that will change when she starts experiencing the cramping, etc herself!)

It's a bit of a risk, I guess, because kids at this age have no idea about tact, and so you may find yourself discussing it out in public or some other uncomfortable place. But for me, when I stop and think about it, it's really not something to be embarrassed about...it just happens!

Good luck!

I answer my daughter's questions as matter-of-factly as possible as they arise, but try to answer only her question and not elaborate. If she wants more information, she asks more questions and now that she's four, she pretty much knows all about what my tampons are for, why I bleed, where from, and what the blood tells me about what's happening inside my body. She got a little grossed out when we covered the blood is essentially food for a growing baby part. Ew, the babies drink blood? Like a mosquito?

I have a five-year old boy too. And an eight-year old boy. And because boys are curious, and it's nothing to be hiding from them anyway, I have just always been honest with them both. My five-year old is much more inquisitive than my older son ever was, and so far I've just answered his questions frankly and he's seemed satisfied. He knows what a tampon is, he knows what menstrual fluid is, etc. I just figure he'll be the informed kid that sets all those other kids straight about the facts! And I've always felt like periods are nothing to be ashamed of, it's just part of life. And if your son brings it up in public, eh- so what? Other people might just need to loosen up, and plus it'll be something you'll laugh about later. After the kids are asleep.

Charis, I just love your explanation. I may just have to memorize it. When my then four-year-old son asked me in the New Seasons bathroom what the complementary tampons were for (they have a basket on the counter), I was unprepared, embarrassed, and totally flubbed an answer. And you're right, AnEmily, there's no reason to be ashamed of it, so my feelings really caught me by surprise. But I love what all of you have said, and now I think I'll do a better job when my daughter gets curious.

my daughter just turned 3 and i have always been upfront about my period with her. i have never hidden my period/supplies and i have kept the explanation simple--when a girl gets to a certain age, blood comes out of her vagina for a few days and then stops for a lot more days before it comes again. its just part of being a girl-- and we use tampons/pads to catch the blood. i have kept the explanation simple because simple explanations seem to have more impact with her--info overload confuses her. the only difficult thing i have encountered is that she wants to 'help' me put in a tampon but i explained that it something that we must do by ourselves and that one day she will start her period and thats when she can use tampons. she seems satisfied with the answers i've given her. i always try to explain things truthfully without overwhelming her with details. when she gets a little older and understands more i will gladly explain why we have periods, but until then, we are both satisfied with the answers to her questions.

my daughter just turned 3 and i have always been upfront about my period with her. i have never hidden my period/supplies and i have kept the explanation simple--when a girl gets to a certain age, blood comes out of her vagina for a few days and then stops for a lot more days before it comes again. its just part of being a girl-- and we use tampons/pads to catch the blood. i have kept the explanation simple because simple explanations seem to have more impact with her--info overload confuses her. the only difficult thing i have encountered is that she wants to 'help' me put in a tampon but i explained that it something that we must do by ourselves and that one day she will start her period and thats when she can use tampons. she seems satisfied with the answers i've given her. i always try to explain things truthfully without overwhelming her with details. when she gets a little older and understands more i will gladly explain why we have periods, but until then, we are both satisfied with the answers to her questions.

so strange and timely as I am having my period and contemplated this issue just yesterday. I appreciate the above posts however I always keep it discrete. I dont hide my supplies but I dont leave the bathroom door open (as I do sometimes when peeing or showering). I think my 5 year old son has asked about supplies in public bathrooms and I think I vaguely answered "they are for mommies".

We have a book on where babies come from that is fairly graphic that he likes to read but it doesnt cover having your period.

SO I guess I have been vague. Not sure how I would answer if it is asked again. I like some of the suggestions above though.

i never thought about how i would talk about my period with my child, but i guess i'm surprised (and maybe a teensy bit envious) that any moms out there have enough privacy in their lives to choose whether to talk about it. my 2.5-year-old daughter is with me for most every bathroom trip i make at home. she was a pretty early talker, so from about 18 months she's been aware and interested in the fact that i bleed. our conversations about it have happened quite naturally, and i like the way it's going. she sees my undies when i pull them down and says, "you bweeding time, mama?" "you need a pad?"

i was blessed with parents who gave me good information about my body from a very young age, but i remember girls i grew up with who were totally unprepared and a little horrified about all that comes with puberty. i developed a reputation as the kid who knew the facts and would share them without sensationalism. from early in elementary school i understood that this knowledge was power, and that lots of kids didn't have it. though i didn't plan to talk about my period with my toddler, i figure, why not? she's curious now, there's a natural opportunity now, and we won't have to overcome any hurdle of awkwardness when she's 9 and doesn't want to hear her mom use the word vagina.

I'm getting to the point where I can't really change the subject anymore, or hide the evidence. The nice thing, though, is that my mom gave me a great guideline -- if they're asking the question, they're ready to know.

My older son (6 years) is just sad to now know that a baby could have been given a warm home but now that home is now being shed into the Fred Meyer bathroom. Not that he really wants another sibling stomping on his Lego sculptures or anything....

Hi, Pam (the original poster) here, thank you for all your comments! It's really helpful to read how others deal with it.

I realized that while I see myself as very open about bodies with my son, the specific issue of periods is something I didn't learn about until I hit puberty, so maybe that's why I wasn't totally sure how to talk with my 5-year-old about it now.

Also, he happens to be adopted, which brings up a whole host of issues when talking about any aspect of reproduction. To not have stories/pictures of when he was in my uterus, when he was born, breast feeding etc. makes some of this stuff feel a little distant. So I just didn't think about how to explain this very specific thing to him.

One of my favorite memories is from when he was 20 months or so, he saw my package of pads on the back of the toilet, where we usually kept the kleenex, and he said "Kleenex for Humpty-Dumpty?" (I guess it was the oval shape of the pad...)

anyhow, thanks!

Jojo, I am right there with you. I can't imagine getting to go to the bathroom by myself (how do other people?), but with all the advice you get on being an example for those who are potty training, I figured it was all good. Lately, though, whenever I've got a tampon or pad in my hands, it's all "Mama! Hold dat?" I have no idea what she thinks of the blood.

hey, pam. jojo here again. i'm also an adoptive mama. interestingly, i already feel like my daughter is trying to connect the dots (at 2.5!) where periods and mamas are concerned. the conversation is very basic right now, but i see the wheels turning. i sometimes think the demystification of women's bodies and their functions will be good groundwork for really understanding what it means to have a birthmama as our conversations evolve.

Straightforward is always best. There's a great book on the "birds and the bees" that I read to my kids at least once or twice a year--"It's Not The Stork."

Check out my review:

http://stretchmarkmama.blogspot.com/2007/06/let-me-tell-ya-bout-birds-and-bees.html

Like Charis and others, I just answered the questions as they came up. My standard period explanation back when my boys were 3 or so (when it first came up):

"Every month my uterus grows a little nest of blood, in case a baby starts growing there. But if no baby starts, then the blood comes out through my vagina and I soak it up with this tampon. Isn't that neat?"

This question has come up in our open-bathroom-door house too. I haven't been discrete so to speak because I don't really feel the need for discretion. My 5 year old had previously asked about things at a younger age (maybe 3 or 4) and at that time I said it was mommy's "owie" and that I needed a "band-aid". Of course owie might not be appropriate but for me it is because my cramps and mood are always horrible. Anyway recently when he asked again I gave him the full scoop... what the blood is and where it came from and why it's coming out. I added the bit about that's what helped him grow when he was a baby in my tummy and that must have satisfied his need for info because he hasn't asked about it again since! I'm sure it will come up again though and we will talk about it again. The funny thing is one day soon his little brother will ask him about it, and I wonder what sort of story he'll come up with for little brother :-)

I certainly won't handle it the way my mom did when we were on vacation and I saw a box of tampons in the bathroom. I said, "Mommy, what are those?" and she snapped, "Those are for me!", threw them in a drawer, and closed it immediately. To this day mom still doesn't believe my older sister and I about how uptight she was in the past.

I certainly won't handle it the way my mom did when we were on vacation and I saw a box of tampons in the bathroom. I said, "Mommy, what are those?" and she snapped, "Those are for me!", threw them in a drawer, and closed it immediately. To this day mom still doesn't believe my older sister and I about how uptight she was in the past.

I've been pretty straightforward with my 5-year-old. I just say that women have a uterus where the baby grows. Blood is collected there to make kind of a pillow for the growing baby. If a baby doesn't grow there, then the pillow of blood has to come out, but the bleeding doesn't hurt (USUALLY!! :) ) like when you scrape your knee. She's very satisfied with that answer.

I use a similar explanation to ones posted above when explaining it to my 6 year old son...the blood is there in my uterus if no baby grows...my husband and son know when it's "time" as I put my wooden African female statue along with a candle in the bathroom.

Prevetik vsem kto ne spit

Ja tuta nakladu a vi uberite pliz

I have an 11 year old son with special needs. Emotionally he is about 7ish. When he has seen the evidence in the past or pads etc.. I have told him that they are like band aids for girls and mommies.. (we have had dogs have puppies, he has seen them born, he thinks they come out the dogs butt),,,, so he just assumes that is where I need the bandaid. I don't think he has caught on yet that his sisters also use "band aids"... Last night (I apparently forgot to flush) he lovingly tells me in private, "Mom, I think you are bleeding from your butt again. I really think you need to the doctor and have that checked out." Obviously it is time to give him more information. Especially when they have the discussion at school so he doesn't blurt out, "well my mom bleeds from her butt." I have to figure out an emotionally age appropriate explanation without him being blindsided at school. And I have to be careful because I know what ever it is I tell him it will be repeated.

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