How to talk to children about periods

Samantha Wild
Clinical Lead for Women's Health and Bupa GP
17 August 2022
Next review due August 2025

We all go through puberty and the changes that come with it. But these changes can feel strange when they first happen, and girls might be nervous about their first period. Talking to them about it can help them prepare for the changes they’ll go through. Here, I’ll explain why it’s important to talk about periods, and how you can explain them to your children.

woman holding a girl on a windy day

Why should I talk to my child about periods?

As with any bodily function, talking about periods (also known as menstruation) can feel uncomfortable. But boys and girls should learn about periods because they’re part of everyday life. And if you can provide children with reliable information about periods, you’ll help them make informed choices about their reproductive health as they grow older.

It’s possible that your child will pick up information about periods online, from social media, from friends or at school. But this information is not always explained thoroughly. Your child might have questions they can’t get the answers to elsewhere.

If you can’t answer all their questions, don’t worry – there are lots of resources online. There are also books about periods and puberty for different age groups. You and your child could read these together.

When should I start talking about periods?

Most girls have their first period at age 12 or 13, but they can start at any time from age 8 until age 15. By age 7, most children can understand the basic concept of periods, so this could be a good time to talk with them about it.

You might find it easier to start the conversation when your child is young and give them more information as they get older. That way, your child will have a better idea of what’s going to happen to their body before they reach puberty.

How do I explain periods to a child?

Before you start the conversation, you might find it helpful to refresh your memory. Although it might feel awkward at first, talking about it should get easier with practice. By treating periods as a normal part of life, you can help ease some of the embarrassment your child might feel. And, over time, they might come to you with more questions or worries they have about their health.

The topic might come up naturally – for example, if your child asks about puberty or where babies come from, you could start talking about periods. Or, if you’re in a supermarket with your child, you could talk to them about period products when you see them. If the subject doesn’t come up naturally, you could ask your child what they already know about periods.

Try to consider your child’s age, and the type of information they’re able to understand. Encourage them to ask questions if they’re unsure about anything. And if they do have questions, try to answer them as clearly as you can.

Puberty is something that everyone goes through, and it might help to share your own experiences. Try to reassure them if they’re worried. It might help to remind them that everybody is different, and that periods can start at different times.

What should I tell my child about periods?

There are several things you can explain to your child, including:

  • What a period is, why it happens, and when they might start. As your child grows older, they should also be aware of the link between menstruation and pregnancy
  • How long a period lasts (3-7 days) and how often they happen (every 21-35 days)
  • The symptoms of a period, which include cramps, bloating, sore breasts, mood swings and feeling tired
  • How period symptoms can be managed – for example, which painkillers can be taken for period pain. Period pain can be uncomfortable so it’s important to address the effects this might have on daily life. You could also suggest they keep a period diary to keep track of their symptoms
  • The different period products available, including tampons, sanitary pads, menstrual cups and period underwear. If you have a daughter, you could offer to take her shopping for these products, so she has a supply for when her periods start

By telling your child what happens during a period, they’ll have a better idea of what to expect, and what’s normal.

If you have heavy, painful, or irregular periods, you’ll know just how disruptive they can be, both physically and mentally. With our Period Plan, you don’t have to face these problems alone.

Samantha Wild
Dr Samantha Wild
Clinical Lead for Women's Health and Bupa GP

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