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
Video Editor, Course Creator
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