Parents: Let’s Not Add Creepy Sexual Messages to Your Daughter’s First Period

by | Aug 21, 2020 | Parenting Teens | 12 comments

How to Separate the Puberty Message from the Sex Message at Your Daughter's First Period

Your daughter’s first period is not the time to warn her about being sexually promiscuous.

Let me repeat that: Just because your daughter can get pregnant now does not mean that you should launch into a talk about not fooling around with boys on the day that she gets her first period.

I’ve invited my youngest daughter Katie on the blog today to respond to a reader’s comment that was sent in during our period series about the trauma of her first period. The reader writes:

My Mom did a pretty good job of preparing me for our periods, and I managed it well.

The real trouble was not my mom, but how my dad handled it. I was 13 years old the week I started my period, but I was still a “young” 13-year-old. I guess my mom told my dad. He took me for a walk and started lecturing me on how I should never, ever let a boy take advantage of me now and how that would ruin my whole life. He told me that if I messed around with boys I would get an STD or would wind pregnant in high school.

At this point I had only ever had 2 crushes. I had never had a boyfriend, and no boys were interested in me.

When I got home I ran off and cried. It was about the most privacy-violating moment of my life, especially because I had told my Mom not to tell him. The best I can compare it to is the analogy of a parent walking in on you in the bathroom and not caring. 

And here’s Katie!

Many Christians unfortuantely feel that a girl getting her first period is the exact appropriate time to lay on the, “Don’t have sex, don’t have sex, don’t have sex!” message.

Let me just say this, this is not as appropriate.

When my older sister was 11 she went away for a weekend with my mom where they listened to a Christian CD curriculum all about puberty. The very next message after, “So you’re going to bleed out of your vagina every single month now for the next 40 years, sorry about that,” was a message solely on promising not to have sex until you’re married.

You see, periods made you sexual now. By having a period you were now in imminent danger of having sex at any moment.

Excuse me, what?!

What is it that is making them see a frightened 12-year-old, trying to figure out how to properly put a pad in so she doesn’t leak through her underwear and pants, is now on the immediate precipice of teenage pregnancy?

While I do not personally believe that a huge lecture on modestly should go hand in hand with taking a young girl out to buy her first training bra, I can see why many highly conservative groups so often tie these things together. There is a point where boobs become sexy, so, logically, I can follow the thought process of explaining modesty at this time, even if that is not the course I would take.

Periods, however, never become sexy.

Not when you’re a teenage, not when you’re an adult, not when you’re married.

So when we sexualize periods to young girls who are already confused about so many things, we really are not accomplishing anything. And let me assure you, at that point in girls’ lives, we will promise you ANYTHING just to get you to stop talking about it.

I can’t think many 12-year-olds trying to figure out tampons would reply, ‘Well actually I was thinking about going and trying to have some sex now,” if you asked them to promise to abstain from sex until they are married. Inserting a tampon for the first time is terrifying enough, OF COURSE we’re going to promise nothing else is going up there for a long, long time.

Heck, at that point, I probably would have promised to NEVER have sex.

My sister and I hit our first periods within a year of one another, despite Rebecca being two and a half years older. It was not a fun few years in the Gregoire household. We were moody, insecure, confused, and learning new things about our bodies that were weird and scary. I in particular always had painful cuts all around my ankles and knees from learning how to shave. I was quite bad at it, obviously. There was a lot going on emotionally and physically.

Reading that reader email earlier in this post, where she was getting more and more shame put on her simply for going through inevitable body changes she had no control over, reaffirms that this is not the most healthy way for a young woman to learn about her body.

All we do by introducing these important discussions too early and in the wrong context is cause baggage, shame, guilt, confusion, and coerced promises that mean nothing because they were made in fear and awkwardness.

In my opinion, teen pregnancy, STDs, and the general struggles of being a teenager are very important serious discussions. But they are important enough that they should be done properly, and especially done at the proper time, which is not 10 minutes after learning the lining of your uterus is going to leak out of your vagina every month.

It’s funny in a way, but both my sister and myself never realized how passionate we were about this topic until a few summers ago when we were filming our video course “The Whole Story“, an in depth e-course to help young girls learn about puberty in a safe, not creepy, and not shameful way. In talking about what we wanted to say to the young girls who would be watching the videos, we realized how much of our content we were putting in because we had friends who had been scarred by shame-based messages that they had been told.

We wanted to do the opposite. We wanted another option out there for mothers and fathers trying to help their daughters navigate these tricky years of growing up, without muddling up the important conversations with anecdotes such as, “A young woman is like a piece of tape and the more people she has sex with, the less sticky she gets. And eventually she won’t be able to stick properly to her husband”. How many of us heard that one, eh? Or the chocolate bar one? (I remember a youth leader giving the chocolate bar analogy when I was about 13 and spending the whole time thinking up what kind of chocolate bar I’d be, hoping I’d be a DairyMilk cause they were so good. I probably didn’t get out of that message what she intended me too.)

The importance of age appropriateness was our main reason in creating the two separate versions of The Whole Story.

In the older version of “The Whole Story”, we do discuss topics such as sex, STDs, and peer pressure. But statistically, the girls seeing those videos would have had their periods for a few years by then, not a few days. And even if they got their periods later, at least they would be more mature hearing these messages.

You’re telling me WHAT goes WHERE?!

Talking about sex with your kids doesn’t always go smoothly. 

That’s why we created The Whole Story, our online course that walks parents through the tough conversations and does the hard parts for you!

When we sexualize girls before they’re ready, it makes sex seems shameful.

The fact that you are a woman and you get periods is not a cause for shame. The fact that your body is changing is not a cause for shame. The fact that your body could carry a pregnancy now is not a cause for shame.

So let’s all do our best to share that with the young girls in our lives. They’re confused enough as it is, let’s let them take it one step at a time.

And here’s a video I created on YouTube a while ago to combat the shame message that girls often hear!

What do you think? Did your parents add shame to your first period by making it all sexual? Did your dad ever embarrass you? How do you think dads should handle this? Let’s talk in the comments!

Sheila Wray Gregoire

Sheila Wray Gregoire

Video Editor, Course Creator

Sheila is determined to help Christians find biblical, healthy, evidence-based help for their marriages. And in doing so, she's turning the evangelical world on its head, challenging many of the toxic teachings, especially in her newest book The Great Sex Rescue. She’s an award-winning author of 8 books and a sought-after speaker. With her humorous, no-nonsense approach, Sheila works with her husband Keith and daughter Rebecca to create podcasts and courses to help couples find true intimacy. Plus she knits. All the time. ENTJ, straight 8

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Sheila Wray Gregoire

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Sheila is determined to help Christians find biblical, healthy, evidence-based help for their marriages. And in doing so, she's turning the evangelical world on its head, challenging many of the toxic teachings, especially in her newest book The Great Sex Rescue. She’s an award-winning author of 8 books and a sought-after speaker. With her humorous, no-nonsense approach, Sheila works with her husband Keith and daughter Rebecca to create podcasts and courses to help couples find true intimacy. Plus she knits. All the time. ENTJ, straight 8

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  1. Anon

    I’d also say please don’t go the other way and go crazy celebrating to try to convince her it’s normal.
    I remember going to my mother and saying I had terrible stomach pain and I’d just found blood in my underwear and was this my first period, and she started dancing round the room and clapping with excitement and saying how wonderful it was because it meant that when I was grownup I could have a baby. Really not what you want to hear when you are about to throw up from pain & nausea! I know 100% it came from a good place, but for a frightened 12-year-old, it made a scary situation even more scary that my mother was celebrating that I was in pain.
    Years later, I found a Christian parenting book on her bookshelf that stressed the importance of ‘celebrating’ your daughter’s first period so that she regarded it as a positive development. That certainly backfired!!! (The book also recommended the father buy a small gift for his daughter to celebrate – I am sooooooo glad that either my mother didn’t suggest that or that my father refused to do it, as that really would have been beyond creepy!)

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Yes, that’s super creepy, too! I think there needs to be acknowledgment that most girls are not thrilled with their first period. While there may be an element of excitement and pride, there’s also a huge amount of awkwardness and distress, and it’s better to be cognizant of BOTH emotions rather than trying to minimize one side of it. Absolutely. Take your cue from your daughter! IF she’s super excited, then for sure celebrate (I don’t think that’s that common, though). But if she’s shy about it or hesitant, it’s okay to say, “I know it doesn’t seem like it right now, but it is exciting to be growing up, and this is going to be okay.” And then also commiserate with her about her cramps!

  2. Jane Eyre

    I don’t have any daughters, but I think I would place this in the context of being how her body works, how God designed her body to work, and emphasis on what is normal (3-7 days, shouldn’t soak a pad or a tampon in an hour) and what sorts of things aren’t normal and require medical intervention (uncontrollable bleeding, killer cramps, cycles that are outside a certain range).
    It blows my mind that parents would equate periods with sex. Like, it was okay if she was having sex before she got periods but now she needs to watch out? Or sex grossed her out two months ago but now she’s going to jump straight from holding hands to intercourse??? What’s the theory here?

  3. NL

    I started talking about periods with my eldest around 7-8 years old. She got her period at 10- no, I didn’t make it sex-oriented! Her younger sisters already are familiar with what a period is, because she has had hormonal issues requiring lots of medical appointments. I think these things are easier when your family is all girls. If we had had any sons, it might have been more awkward-less open.

  4. Wifey

    That’s the craziest thing I’ve ever heard. I’ve never dreamed people sexualized periods. This blog makes me extra grateful my parents kept me out of the youth group culture. I had some vague awareness of the whole ‘little pieces of your heart given away’ analogy, but otherwise, I had a much healthier view on purity than I think is presented most of the time. I grew up pretty conservative, but I never heard 98% of this crazy unbiblical junk! I know my husband, whose parents carefully and prayerfully put him in youth groups to encourage him to be a good friend to those who needed it, is still scarred by some of the things he heard and saw in youth groups.

  5. Bre

    Wow, I didn’t know that some people seriously think that “the talk” needs to come right away after a girl gets her period! I mean, I get that it means that it’s probably time to start getting into that, but not on the same day, for gosh sake!
    I found out about periods (and a tiny bit about sex and reproduction) in 5th grade during the puberty classes they gave us and, when I came home my mom did talk about sex and periods, but they were both very casual and blunt. She told me that she didn’t want me to have sex until I got married to protect myself and my future, but she wasn’t going to get into it in depth because I was too little to need to care about that. She just answered whatever I asked her (FYI; she believed in God and we are both Christians now, but we weren’t involved with church or anything back then). And I didn’t get my period until I was in 8th grade, so it really wasn’t anything that we freaked out about.
    Although, in my case, my Autism also made things interesting…I had to ask her tons of questions that freaked her out because I didn’t fully ‘get’ what sex was until maybe early high school. I legit freaked out when I had my first kiss like two months after the puberty talk because I was somehow under the impression that accidentally ingesting someone’s spit could get you pregnant…I’m literally laughing my butt off remembering this! My mom had to be like “Uh…WHAT? No, you can only get pregnant by shoving intimate body parts together, so you can’t do stuff that could get you pregnant without knowing it! Where did you get THAT idea?!”
    It’s funny now but, when I was cleaning stuff for my parents while I was home, I found my old SPED and IEP records on my disabilities and one of the things that they actually noted as concerns from my 4th and 5th grade observation assessments was that I was “too naive” and didn’t know or understand anything about sex. It blew me away, because I’m going to college to be a teacher and I would NEVER even think to start talking about sex with elementary schoolers! I’m guessing that they were probably worried that I was too innocent and clueless and could end up being molested or abducted or something?
    Actually, that is something that makes me curious…I wonder when the right time to start talking about puberty stuff and sex is? And how it can be affected if the kid has disabilities? Just thinking out loud. I”ve been thinking on this stuff lately because of your articles and the fact that I found my old paperwork.

    • Anon

      I think rather than having a ‘right time’, the best way is to drip feed information in an age-appropriate way as kids grow up. We don’t tend to sit children down and give them this long talk about any other aspect of life, so I don’t see why it should be different about sex. Yes, there may be times when you need to have a specific discussion (or give the kid some material to watch/read and ask questions about later) about a certain issue, but I don’t think that can replace ongoing teaching that is built into everyday life.
      I think it’s also hugely helpful if kids can be raised around animals as it provides automatic opportunities to have conversations about birth, death, development, mating etc!

      • Dee

        I agree that talking about sex and our bodies should be started long before her period. I was already having sex at 13. Although this was way too early for that, you have to keep in mind that you have to give them enough knowledge to recognize a person preying on a child. I was molested by my guidance counselor in 7th grade. Thankfully the public school already told us the birds and bees in 5th grade, as well as my parents teaching me that no one has the right to touch me without my permission. I was able to escape before it got worse. My parents and school staff believed me too. It is important to establish yourself as a safe person to go to with honest questions. Look for teachable moments to use in a casual way. Talking about the beauty of our bodies and that certain parts are private go a long way. Some of us grew up with Judy Blume and Beverly Clearly books which helped me in those awkward preteen years. It should definitely be the drip method rather than ignorance of the subject until she bleeds.

  6. Natalie

    I mean, technically, a girl can pregnant in the months before she gets her first period, so way have “the talk” when she first gets her menses? Weird!
    Getting your period for the first time is weird enough. No need to make the transition more strange / awkward / uncomfortable or make your daughter more self-conscious than she already is.
    My period first came when I was 11, though I had breasts starting at age 9 and had been putting on a little “puberty fat” (as my pediatrician called it) since around when my breasts started forming too. My mom had already given me the puberty/sex talk, so I wasn’t surprised. In fact, I was so prepared that I put on a panty liner from my mom’s bathroom cabinet and then went to go tell my mom my period had start lol. She told me I’d need something a little thicker. 😉
    My mom let me stay home from school, which was cool. But I guess she’d called my dad to tell him my news, and he came home with flowers and was jokingly like “congrats. You’re a woman now”. 😂😝😳 OMG, I was so mortified. (It’s was awkward but not uncomfortable cuz of the relationship I have with my dad: very lighthearted / jokes-based cuz he has trouble discussing serious topics with people).

  7. Nonnie

    I’m among those with an awkward start. My mother had a gift for making the conversations as weird and awkward as possible, but I was at least familiar with the process when it started, so it was just an annoyance, not a freak-out. But when my mother found out I’d started, she told my dad he needed to take me out for a celebratory dinner date and talk about it. Worst. dinner. ever. The food was delicious, but I can assure you that it is not the food I think of any time someone mentions this restaurant (20 years later). That is at the top of the list of responses I don’t want to employ if we have a daughter someday.

  8. Leigh Ann

    Ain’t it the truth?! My mom actually did this to me and I started my period at only 11. I didn’t live with her at the time and she made it a point to scare me away from sex at every chance she got. It worked, but the truth is it wasn’t in me to have sex before marriage anyway. I had also become a Christian at a young age and didn’t believe in it.
    Now, I have a 10-year-old daughter who has already had her first period and she doesn’t even fully understand what sex is. I want to keep her a child as long as I can.


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