“How do I talk to my non-binary kid about their period in a way that doesn’t invalidate their identity? They don’t like to talk about it and I feel so weird and unsure all the time!”
Question Submitted Anonymously
Answered by Alaina Monts
Periods are…weird. Even if you learn about them from the most liberal sources, they’re often associated with womanhood and femininity in ways that, even for me, as a non-binary person who has an amicable relationship with menstruation, can feel uncomfortable. It’s understandable that your kid doesn’t want to talk about it when almost every source that mentions periods can invalidate their identity. But periods are just a thing that happens to some folks’ bodies, and being able to talk about them with your child is an important aspect of keeping up with their health, so let’s figure out some ways to make it easier. Here are five things to keep in mind:
1. Change your language and mindset about periods.
When I got my period for the first time, it was hailed as the first step toward becoming an adult, specifically womanhood and motherhood. But a period is not the first step to becoming a woman, it’s just a regular shedding of the uterine lining. That’s it. Changing the way you talk about periods with your kid can make a really huge difference. It’s easy to make statements like “Well, at least you’re not pregnant!” or, if you’re a woman, try to find camaraderie with them by mentioning that this is something all “of us” go through, but try not to. Make a period’s attachment to gender as neutral as possible. Even saying “menstrual products” instead of “feminine products” is a small change in language, but can make period talk feel much more affirming. If you change how you think and talk about periods, your child might be more willing to talk about them.
2. Find out how your child wants to talk about their period.
Once you’ve changed your own language, a good next step is to find out how they want to talk about it. Personally, I like to say that I’m bleeding instead of having my period. Maybe they like to talk about it as their “time of the month,” or maybe saying “period” is fine for them. The important thing is that you ask them. Make it clear that you want to talk about their period on their terms, and then listen and use the language they ask you to use.
3. Help experiment with finding products (or not!)
Maybe your parent gave you pads because that’s what their parents gave them and that’s what you plan to give to your kid, but maybe you don’t! Be willing to experiment with them and ask them what kinds of products they want. Some people don’t like how aware pads make them of the periods. Some people don’t like tampons because they don’t want to have to be that intimate with their vagina. I personally use a menstrual cup because it made me feel dysphoric to have to go searching through the period aisle every time it happened. And sometimes I free bleed, especially at night. Offer to get your child whatever products make them feel good about themself and even things like extra dark sheets or a multipack of black sweats and underwear. Be willing to do something new every month because our relationships with our bodies can change. What might feel good one month might not feel good another one.
4. If there’s something you’re worried about, think about using a tracking app.
I love menstrual tracking apps. Just because I’ve gotten to a place where I don’t think negatively about menstruating doesn’t mean that I always want to talk about it, or that I want to be surprised by it. But I still need to keep track of when it happens so that I can be informed when I talk to my doctor. Apps that track menstruation are a lifesaver for me—they remind me a few days before, so I can have time to get ready for them. I personally use Clue because it’s gender neutral, and I can share data, which could be really useful for a parent/child relationship. Check around for an app that you and your child likes—a lot of them can be really gendered, so look around for something that’s as gender neutral as possible. This way, you can keep up on anything you’re worried about, and your child doesn’t have to sit down and have a conversation that might make them uncomfortable.
5. If your child wishes they didn’t have a period, talk to their pediatrician about options.
If menstruating really bothers your child, talk to their pediatrician about ways to stop it. Birth control is not only for people having sex and can be a way to stop periods completely. Talk about what’s safe, and then talk to your child. If this is what they want, find a way to make it happen. Medical intervention to stop periods is totally fine and normal, and there are lots of reasons people don’t want to have them, including gender dysphoria! Talk about how birth control or another option like it is an option for your child. Let them know that if they don’t want to have a period, they don’t have to, but that you want to do it safely and in conjunction with a doctor.
The most important thing when talking about periods with your child is to mention that they’re normal and that they do not mean that your child is a girl or woman. Don’t push, be gentle, and be flexible. Offer them lots of resources and listen to what they have to say. They’ll open up when they’re ready.
Alaina is a 20-something working on a PhD in Performance as Public Practice. They are a mom to three cats, they listen to a lot of NPR and musicals, and they spend a lot of time on Pinterest lusting over studio apartments. They are actively trying to build A Brand on twitter @alainamonts. One day, they will be First Lady of the United States.