Normalizing Period Talk With Your Sons

One way or another, our sons will encounter people on their periods throughout their lives: sisters, spouses, classmates, dates… the list goes on. So, it seems only logical that, as parents, we’d want to talk to them about what menstruation is and how it’s a totally natural thing that happens to people around them. Why not better prepare them so they don’t end up making fun of or traumatizing someone? After all, getting your period is traumatizing enough.

But a quick Google search on the topic suggests that, as a society, we aren’t prioritizing teaching cisgender boys about periods — and we absolutely should be.

Although there are many different opinions about when, how, or even why this conversation should be happening, the topic of talking to boys about periods does fortunately seem to be increasing.

If you’re thinking about the convo, you should be having it.

Speaking to Kin Fertility, sex educator Cath Hakanson explained that she’s often asked by parents how to navigate the subject with their sons.

“Some kids find out by accident, and their mums want to know — ‘Do I tell them I’m bleeding? Will they get scared and think that I’m hurt or whatever?’” Hakanson says. “And then there’s also, ‘What do I tell boys, because boys don’t have periods, so why do they need to know about it?’”

The latter question came to life on TikTok in late 2023 when TikTok dadfluencer Jose Rolon (@nycgaydad) went viral for asking followers for advice.

“I genuinely have a serious question for all women and parents out there,” he said, continuing, “Should we be talking to our boys about periods?”

Rolon shared his experience taking his 9-year-old daughters to the doctor. Although the girls haven’t started their periods yet, the doctor hinted their development is heading in that direction and gave them a really great explanation.

“I love something that my doctor said. She said, ‘Don’t freak out. It’s nothing to be scared of. It’s your vagina’s way of cleaning itself out,’” shared Rolon, clearly surprised. “That’s awesome. It never even occurred to me that that’s actually what’s happening. I really need some education around this. It just made it so simple and so easy to explain.”

It’s not a secret society.

It shouldn’t have been that big of a shock to Rolon, but he’s not alone — and he knows it.

“I hear from women all the time. They’ve got their own version of, ‘Oh my god. I remember my first time in gym class’ or ‘I was wearing white pants, and this happened, and everybody made fun of me,’” said Rolon. “After hearing that doctor’s explanation, I thought, ‘Shouldn’t I also be educating my son on this? Because I would kill him if he ever made fun of a girl if she had an accident in public.’”

The short answer: Yes, please. Talk to your son. We should all be talking to our sons.

As Dana Marlowe, CEO and founder of the nonprofit organization I Support the Girls, pointed out to Scary Mommy, roughly half of the female population (and around a quarter of the global population) have periods. According to the United Nations Population Fund, that equates to some 800 million people between the ages of 15 to 49 menstruating each day.

“Why not make sure the half [of the population] that doesn’t have periods is also informed?” asks Marlowe. “I want to make the invisible visible for my boys, and I hope they will grow up to be allies and empathizers.”

The comments section of Rolon’s video serves as an excellent illustration of why the non-period-having part of the population Marlowe mentions should be educated from an early age.

“Omg, please talk to your boys about periods. I had a boss who once told me that I should have my period on my own time, not company time,” revealed one woman.

“YES!!” one commenter replied to Rolon’s question. “Coming from a teen who doesn’t have kids but has an older brother … He is CONSTANTLY making fun of me when I’m on my period.”

Another shared, “Please do. My man is the first one I’ve ever met who understands how a cycle works and what to expect.”

So, how do you talk about periods with boys?

Every family is different, but sometimes, broaching the subject can be the hardest part. Finding ways to ease into the conversation can look like:

However you broach the subject, you should be clear and concise.

Explain the meaning of anatomical terms as you move through your conversation. Although you might naturally default to using euphemisms when discussing your period (i.e., Aunt Flo), focus on using correct terminology. The goal is to keep the convo positive and help your cisgender son understand that periods are natural and nothing to be ashamed of.

If you don’t know the answer to a question your son asks, be honest. You can use that moment to build on the conversation by saying, “That’s a great question, buddy! Let’s find out.”

Part of your conversation can and should include how periods might affect period-havers — PMS, painful cramping, etc. — and why kindness and empathy are essential.

How much else your conversation covers is up to you. But suffice to say that a 7th-grade health class clearly isn’t cutting it! Maybe just start with the same explanation Rolon’s doctor used and go from there.

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