Leave the fear out when you talk about expelling fluid from your vagina every month.
Menstruation, while a natural part of most women's lives, is still fairly taboo. We hide our tampons and maxi pads, and we don't let our partners in the bathroom when we're on our periods. Nobody wants to see it, hear about it, or even think about it.
I didn't grow up secluded from the womanly trials that awaited me but as I moved through puberty I began to realize periods simply weren't proper to talk about at the dinner table. Talking about periods with my friends was okay — once we got "the talk" at school it was a common topic — but I could tell that bathroom topics should stay between us girls.
But when I became a mom, I realized that even though periods seemed to be a pretty big no-no discussion topic throughout my childhood, there really wasn't any reason to hide the fact that I menstruate from my own kids.
So even though I had a bizarrely strong instinct to shelter my 12-year-old daughter from the harsh realities of being female (after all, periods are crappy and painful, and I didn't want her to stress about a future filled with blood, expelled tissue, and discomfort), I realized I was doing her a disservice by hiding it from her.
So, I started with discussing the basics; simply discussing what happens (and why) was all she needed to know, without shame or fanfare or negative language.
Giving kids, especially girls, an early menstrual education filled with facts instead of uncomfortable feelings of ickiness or shame can go a long way toward a healthy, body-positive attitude about a female's inevitable monthly period.
This doesn't require going outside and howling at the moon — just a benign, honest, and welcoming attitude, free of "Ew, gross," which can shape your child's attitude about menstruation.
Many parents leave it up to the school to teach kids about puberty and menstruation, which is fine. But having the support and knowledge shared from home from the get-go provides a child with a better foundation when these changes start taking place. Parents who do choose this route, however, need to make sure the topic will be sufficiently covered at school, because life will be hell for the kid who starts her period at age nine with no idea why it's happening.
1. Leave the fear out when you talk about expelling fluid from your vagina every month.
2. Yes, mention "blood," but also mention that this blood is a normal sign of a healthy person and it doesn't mean you're sick or hurt.
3. Let her know that if she experiences pain or difficulty, to let you know so you can help her out with some of the remedies you've used over the years.
And as for boys, you can talk them about periods, too. My boys never got an in-depth period talk, but I didn't take pains to hide my monthly duties from them, either. The big thing here is no shame. Chances are your son's going to become involved with a girl at some point in his life; having that understanding will promote a healthy attitude about the human body and respecting the unique needs of the female species.