Many parents often think that opening the door to awkward topics such as menstruation, puberty, sex, etc. will result in too much curiosity—and they therefore, put these important conversations off or leave them in the hands of school or pediatrician, instead.
I recently viewed an old episode of Supernanny in which a family with four children had not yet had a conversation about sex with their 13-year-old son, whose room contained unopened condoms scattered across his dresser. Supernanny Jo Frost was horrified and questioned the parents as to whether or not they’d given them to their son or provided him guidance/sex education. When both parents replied ‘no’ and told her that they just hadn’t talked about it (hoping by not talking they’d ultimately prevent their teen from being curious about and having sex), Supernanny just about had a heart attack on camera!
As a parent of three children myself, I know all too well how weary us parents can become over the years. It starts with sleepless nights caring for newborns, and graduates to the Terrible Two’s and Three’s, and eventually, filled social and activity calendars—all of which must be juggled alongside careers, relationships, marriage and oftentimes, other children. When life is this hectic I can see how conversations (especially the ones we prefer not to have too soon) get put on the back burner. Ask my husband how often I say, “Can we discuss X topic tomorrow?” and he’d tell you it happens a lot.
Interestingly, after launching Period Packs two years ago, we quickly realized that our clients are mainly comprised of parents who purchase gifts for the special young ladies in their lives after they begin menstruating. While this is certainly a wonderful time for a young lady to receive a celebratory, yet discreet gift in the mail, we encourage parents to engage their daughters on the topic of menstruation in advance of its actual onset since menstruation isn’t exclusively about the onset of monthly bleeding. These days, we have a responsibility to educate our young women about everything from safe Internet practices to safe sex. We must explain the importance of regular medical exams, hygiene, breast self-exams and overall preparedness. Young ladies today do seem to have more on their plate than their predecessors—likely due in part to amazing advancements in technology and the Digital Era in general. Information moves rapidly across a variety of platforms—many of which can be obtained right from a handheld device like a smart or cell phone. It’s a little frightening sometimes.
With this easy access to information, some parents assume (or hope) that their engaged and intelligent tweens/teens will leverage the Internet to research the things they need to know on their own. The main challenge with that plan is that not all information on the Internet is accurate (in fact, much of it is pure opinion) and much of it is shared with improper or incorrect context.
I’ve come to realize, now a parent myself, how important it is to have open communication with my children about everything—and I mean, everything. I have promised them (and myself) that I can handle anything they drop into my lap. I just hope I can always keep that promise. Time will certainly tell.
In the meantime, I’ve already started to plan how I’m going to begin discussing menstruation with my soon-to-be 7-year-old daughter. It seems so young, but current research estimates that more young women are getting their period between the ages of 7-14. Since she’s been around Period Packs for so long, I’m sure she’ll grasp it more quickly than others, yet I’d be lying if I said I didn’t want to put off that day for as long as I could. I’m still in the ‘your my little princess’ phase with her and seeing her grow up—so seemingly quick—nearly breaks my heart. Alas, some silver lining is that we will begin discussion soon, and my goal will be to wrap it around a few chocolate sundaes, hot cocoas and wonderful one-on-one bonding moments with her in the years to come. Now that is something to look forward to–YUM!