Helping women & girls go with the flo.

“What is a Period, Mommy?”

Say it again

Last fall I had a conversation about menstruation with my then two-year-old daughter. I didn’t want to; I was forced. Some were amused by its content. Some inspired.

Just the other night, the topic of periods came up again. Because I was having mine, and once again my daughter saw the string between my legs.

What is a Period, MommyThe conversation started off exactly like the first time, but ended up going in a different, more detailed direction…

“Somefeen in your butt, Mommy.”

“We had this conversation before, honey. Do you remember? There is nothing in my butt. It’s in my vagina, and it’s called a tampon.”

A look of recognition came across her face, and she nodded as if to say she remembered. And then she was quiet for a moment. I thought I was getting off easy this time. But…

“Why you need it?”

OK, that’s a big question. Do I really want to explain to my three year old about bleeding from the vagina once a month? I think not. At her age, she’s really not capable of handling that information.

It’s best to keep things high level and age appropriate at this point.

“I need it because I am a woman, and I have something called a period once a month.”

“I not have a period.”

“No, you don’t yet. You will when you are a big girl.”

“Will it hurt?”

I really hesitated on this one. I don’t want to lie to my child. Periods can hurt. I had terribly painful periods most of my life. They were debilitating until I had a uterine ablation after she was born.

But I don’t want to scare her, either. Turn a period into something she learns to dread. So I compromised by responding with, “Sometimes it can hurt.”

I was trying to think about how I would continue, but her attention span was spent. She was ready to move on. I was not disappointed.

But every time the subject of periods has come up, I’ve felt unprepared. I really do need to think about how often I want to talk about this with my daughter and what I want to say.

It’s good to take advantage of opportunities when they come up. And keep the conversation moving forward. But planning ahead is never a bad idea, either.

We currently have a book about the human body my daughter loves to have us read to her. It includes a section on how babies are made. She enjoys seeing a baby growing in the Mommy’s belly.

It does discuss egg and sperm. Perhaps next time this subject comes up I can introduce the concept into the discussion and begin to tie everything together…


By Elizabeth Flora Ross

Elizabeth blogs about her struggles and successes as a writer and a mom at The Writer Revived. She is the author of Cease Fire: A Call to End the War Between Women, which she is currently working to get published. In March 2011 she launched The Mom Pledge, an online campaign to eradicate cyber bullying among moms. You can connect with her on TwitterFacebook and Google+


Looking for more information on periods?
Check out our Info on Periods & Puberty page for helpful information OR stop by our new PeriodTalk forum to get answers to the questions you’ve been wondering about.

6 Comments | Leave a Comment - We'd love to hear from you!

6 Responses to “What is a Period, Mommy?”

  1. Marli says:

    When I was a little girl I told my mom that the cat had killed a rat and it put it in the toilet (apparently my mom had gotten distracted by me or something when she was taking a tampon out. And to me, little girl, it looked like a bloody creature with a tail). She just said “uh hu. that’s a smart cat.” and moved on.

  2. PJ Kaiser says:

    Elizabeth – I’ve mentioned to you that I have no plans to treat this subject the way our parents generation treated it. I was with my bff when she first got her period (well before i did) and we both thought she was dying. There’s certainly such a thing as “too much information” (as you say, you don’t necessarily want to tell her how painful it can be to scare her) but I definitely agree with telling her about these things – it’s a natural process, after all, and you’d much rather have the information come from you than from her friends at school.

  3. Sarah S says:

    I remember being so confused as a little girl and my mom not wanting to give me all the details! It’s so crazy to be a kid (:

  4. C. Drew says:

    One of the girls I nannied asked me about tampons. She is five. Any ideas? Tying it to pregnancy is a good idea.

    • We always suggest being open, honest & age appropriate. You may want to check with her parents to make sure you are on the same page as far as what is “age appropriate.” We’ve shared some helpful tips in a guest post we wrote, Preparing for Puberty Starts Now. Some of the tips include: Listen carefully, Use proper names for body parts, Take advantage of young children’s natural curiosity, Introduce educational toys that teach about the body, Make the most of teachable moments, Provide honest, complete, and simple answers, Correct misinformation, Share stories of your own experiences, Teach puberty basics for both boys and girls (not just your child’s own gender)

      Please let us know if there is anything else we can help you with. Alternatively, feel free to review or post your own question(s) on our PeriodTalk Q&A Forum. 🙂

  5. Jane Bennett says:

    I loved reading Elizabeth’s conversations with her little girl, and her thoughts about that. So great to read about your openness with her questions (even while squirming inside!). I have been working with mothers of daughters around this very subject for several decades and honour your impulse to feel more prepared about this (and that of a great many mothers). I wrote ‘A Blessing Not a Curse’ specifically for this purpose – it’s available from Amazon, Book Depository and the like. Great tips too from the Be Prepared Period Team. Thanks

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