A few months ago I got this message from a concerned mom…
“What do you say when your toddler sees a bloody pad if they go to the restroom with you? Struggling for age appropriate language for it. I never go to the bathroom alone – she’s my little barnacle and she’s also very curious. I don’t want her to be scared when she sees my blood. It’s okay for her to see it, I don’t have to hide it from her?”
Let’s talk about it!
What to Include in a Period Conversation with Young Kids
It’s okay to not give a ton of detail or unload a full anatomy and physiology lesson on your four-year-old.
Start with a simple, quick, matter-of-fact response and be open to seeing where their questions and curiosities take the conversation.
Sometimes they are asking for a totally different reason than we think they are, so keeping things brief but encouraging them to ask follow-up questions can end up being better for everyone.
Here are a few other important points and ideas:
- Use anatomically correct words (vulva, vagina, uterus/womb, etc.) for body parts.
- Reinforce that, even though there is blood, the blood doesn’t hurt. This is a great opportunity to explain that periods are a healthy and normal part of life.
- Young kids often love to help, so give them a helpful job to do if one makes sense!
If they are in the bathroom with you, can they bring you a clean reusable pad or pair of period underwear from the bathroom cabinet or open the trash can lid for you? Or maybe they can be a part of the period care routine you have and get you a glass of water, bring you some magnesium lotion, fetch your heating pad, or whatever would be useful.
- Invite them to ask further questions now or later so they know they can come to you with whatever is on their little minds. It’s a good idea to think about this as an ongoing conversation.
I also opened up to the moms in my wonderful Instagram community and a flood of messages came in.
Here are nine moms on how they talk with their young kids about periods!
1. “Your Uterus is Getting Fresh!”
“I told my 3-year-old son that the blood came from my uterus – the same place he came from – and that when there isn’t a baby in me then my body sheds the lining to make a fresh space inside. He definitely got it, because he’s brought it up since in a nonchalant way. ‘Oh your uterus is getting fresh!'”
2. “I Get to Have This Every Month”
“I tell my daughter straight up that it’s my period. I say that this is good and it doesn’t hurt me at all. It means mommy is healthy and I get to have this every month. She is interested, curious, but not scared. She knows her older sisters have a period too. Sometimes she puts toilet paper in her undies and calls it a pad!”
3. Baby Hotel
“It’s a hotel that gets ready for a baby but when no baby is made, it needs to be cleaned. The blood is my body’s way of cleaning the room.”
4. A Cycle of Cushiness
“My daughter has also always been a barnacle so she’s known that Mama bleeds once a month since she was like 2-years-old. At that age, I just told her it was called my period and no, it didn’t hurt at all. A little older, I told her it’s part of how mamas grow babies and our bodies go through cycles. My body got all cushy and ready for a baby but no baby grew this month, so my body doesn’t need the extra cushiness so out it goes. Now that she’s 6, the fact that she’s already accustomed to the idea that hormones cycle helps explain why Mama has grumpy or sad days. In my opinion, don’t hide it! Then they worry when they see it accidentally. Just reiterate that it does not hurt and that it’s part of what allows women to have babies.”
5. Out With the Old, In With the New
“God gives women extra blood every month for when they have babies. If we don’t have a baby that month then the blood needs to come out so the fresh blood can come in. When we are pregnant it all goes to the baby and no blood comes out of mama.”
6. “I Can’t Wait to Wear a Pad!”
“While my daughter hasn’t seen my period blood, I’ve explained that it looks like blood but it is the lining of my uterus/womb. When my body realizes that there was no sperm to meet the egg, my body doesn’t need the lining anymore and gets rid of it and it comes out of my vagina. I share that it happens every month or so and takes about a week to finish.
These conversations led to her one dinnertime loudly proclaiming (in front of her pre-teen brothers), ‘I just can’t WAIT for my lining to come out and to wear a pad!!'”
7. Totally Unfazed
“I explain that women have special places called a uterus to grow a baby and that when no baby is growing, it cleans itself out every month and that’s a period. My kids were totally unfazed.”
“Here’s what I say: ‘The blood means I don’t have a baby inside my body. This is my pad. I fold it up and throw it in the trash before I get a new one. It has blood on it but the new one doesn’t. The pad catches the blood so it doesn’t get on my clothes or our furniture. It’s normal and healthy for older girls to have blood sometimes. You will have it when you get older.’
Over time I have started saying vagina instead of vulva concerning period blood. She asked me what vagina meant and we talked about it being a hold near the hold where pee comes out of your body. She just turned 4 and has asked me so many questions. I try to keep the answers matter-of-fact and casual.”
9. Starting From a Young Age
“My son and daughter have always known about periods because I never get to go to the bathroom alone. So I explained that it was my uterus shedding because I wasn’t pregnant and that I was fine and it was normal. They know I get cramps from it, but otherwise I don’t make a big deal out of it and they have never thought anything of it. They are 9 and 5 now and are very sweet and sensitive to what I need when they know I’m on my period. My husband knew nothing of periods until he started dating me, so he is fully on board with being open and honest about it from a young age. It definitely makes other family members uncomfortable, though, when my young children have mentioned things so casually!”
Ready for more?
If your daughter is approaching puberty and you want a quick refresher on the physical changes that happen during this important time, grab my free conversation guide below! It gives you an overview of the average age for different body changes, key points to make sure your daughter understands, and discussion questions.
If you’re wanting even more, my mom and daughter puberty course dives deeper into all things puberty so both of you feel confident and prepared.
The course covers topics like…
- breast development
- body hair (including pubic hair) and body odor
- healthy vs unhealthy vaginal discharge
- the basics of hormones and hormonal changes
- periods and menstrual cycles: what to expect from a first period, amount of blood lost, what period blood might look like, heavy bleeding, the basics of period products, how period pain/severe cramps are not normal and what to do about them, navigating pre-menstrual syndrome, and more
- emotional changes and tips for navigating big emotions and mood swings
Let’s talk in the comments!
I’d love to hear which responses resonated the most with you. Have you talked with your little kid(s) about periods? If not, what’s holding you back? ♥