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I started asking this question with a father and his daughter's puberty in my mind - especially her monthly cycles. Then I thought this could also extend to a mother and her son's puberty as well.

When I was a young adult and first started getting my period, i think my dad did the best he could to not alienate himself from this part my life. He never shied away from buying tampons for me, or talking about the science behind it, and I was alright with it in the beginning. But a year or 2 later, I began to think he's being too open about this, and started feeling very embarrassed to talk about it. One time, I got my periods unexpectedly on a trip, and I didn't have pads or tampons with me. Till we got to the next town, I was miserable while he chatted away casually. He only probably meant to distract me, but back then, I was very annoyed at him. I thought he didn't understand my embarrassment and discomfort.

I don't know what else/more he could have done to get me to be more comfortable. I'm at a loss to see why I distanced myself from him in this area, and I wonder how my husband can avoid this. Now that I think of it, my parents did make a big deal about the secrecy surrounding the whole thing, and how it would be very inappropriate if I stained my clothes in public. Well, which is kind of true, and they just told it as it is.

Now that I'm about to be a parent myself, I want to know how my husband and I can enable our child(ren) to be open, free, and unabashed about their changing bodies.. especially with us, their primary caregivers. What kind of interactions (verbal and non verbal) should I have with our son, and my husband with our daughter to achieve this?

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    "I was miserable while he chatted away casually. He only probably meant to distract me, but back then, I was very annoyed at him" <- this happens all the time with women. You try your best at making them feel less bad and try to make em think about other things, they get upset because you seemingly don't understand how important the problem is :D – Džuris Feb 4 '17 at 21:27
  • May be try open communication then? "Do you want to talk about this? Or something else, if you want to divert your mind? Or do you prefer to not talk at all?" Ahha! This helped me answer my question - "I don't know what else he could have done". Thank you! :D – learner101 Feb 6 '17 at 4:14
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    I don't know what else he could have done, but I know what you could have done: if his casual chatting embarrassed you, you could have asked him to stop. – user7953 Feb 8 '17 at 6:15
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I think secrecy was a holdover from my parent's generation. My own mum could not discuss birth control with me the week before my wedding! I simply asked what she used, not about sex and she said to talk to my doctor. She was born in the 1920s and I gather times were different!

I remember when my roommate who was an actress, was asked to do a voiceover for a Tampax commercial and she refused because she did not want it on her resumé! That was probably the mid 70s.

We never told our boyfriend or husband unless we had to. It was not polite conversation, so I understand exactly where your parents were coming from -- the dark ages where women's bodies were dirty and scary. Even among women it was "the curse", "my friend" and so on... Ridiculous!

I think those Tampax ads helped grow us up. There is nothing dirty or scary or weird about females, or the biology of a female body.

With our daughter we discussed it years in advance by and through the study of biology. Why did our dog get neutered? How do cats get pregnant? Why does that mummy have a big tummy? Why is Willow Mum buying sanitary pads and tampons? Later, how did a baby get in there? How is it fed or breathing in there? The questions came naturally. The answers did too.

I'd make sure that your partner knows the biology as well as you do. Many of us think we know more than we do. (I have a menstrual cycle -- of course I know all about it.) So I'd suggest you both study enough to know the answers and then be prepared to answer as honestly and openly as you can. Use the teachable moments as they show up. Do not put a great question off until later.

When my daughter at 5 asked why I was buying tampons in the grocery store, I said something like, "You know I menstruate, right? These tampons help me stay comfortable, like a diaper keeps a baby comfortable." She did not ask more, but when she did, I answered. She had as much right to that information as any human does. Later, when she saw tampons in my bathroom and noticed they did not look like diapers, I showed her with a doll, where they went and explained it did not hurt. Later she told her dad that she had a hole in her vulva and asked where his hole was. It's hard not to laugh or be embarrassed but he was a trouper. He said he was a man and that instead of a vagina, uterus and vulva, he had a penis and testicles. Out came the big book we had about our bodies and he showed her. It was the first time she heard about ova and sperm and all that, but she was fascinated by it. Her best question had come years earlier when she saw her biological father in the shower, "Daddy what is that thing coming out of your vulva?"

Overtime we added to the information. We made sure there were books and that she was free to ask anything. Sure there are things we did not answer. "How often do you and Dad have sex?" Our answer was that it was private between partners but that sex was a part of most love relationships and that different people enjoy sex more or less than other people.

When we noticed that she was growing hair and had little breast buds forming, we bought her pads and I showed her again how they stuck to her undies. She chose to wear pantyliners and because of that her first cycle was no big deal. She had a pad in her purse and was wearing a liner. I asked if she wanted to celebrate becoming a woman and she chose a RED party at a pizza joint with some of her friends -- boys and girls.

It was not a big moment for her, but she liked the party. Since then she's come to me with a problem about pimples on her bum and to her dad about a pimple on her vulva -- she was staying at his house that evening. If we don't have an answer, lucky us -- the world of knowledge is as close as our phones.

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    My husband, who is a lot more comfortable talking about that sort of thing than I am, had a great story. He had given our young daughter the American Girl's guide to your body and one day as they were driving and chatting, she suddenly piped up from the back seat, "Daddy, this is my Avenger!" He was confused until he realized she was trying to say "this is my vagina". When he managed to stop laughing, he couldn't think of anything to say but, "well, sweetheart, I'm sure some women think of it that way" – Francine DeGrood Taylor Feb 3 '17 at 17:56
  • @FrancineDeGroodTaylor I love kids and that is a great story! – WRX Feb 3 '17 at 18:13
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    I think it is important for a child not to be shamed into silence on these topics. Honest questions from a child should be answered in a straight forward manner. We want our children to have healthy attitudes towards these topics and they are never going to develop a healthy attitude if they are not afforded the chance to talk about it. – Neil Meyer Feb 3 '17 at 19:09
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Willow Rex's answer is far more detailed than mine will be but I (I'm female) was never awkward about talking to my dad about women's health issues and other things that came up. Partly this could be due to a not-terribly-close relationship with my mother and divorced parents, but I think the same concept would apply.

When anything did come up and my sister and I would ask our Dad - he simply talked about it openly and honestly without being "weird" about it - he also kept the bathroom well stocked with an assortment of tampons. I think that any embarrassment about talking about these kinds of things may be largely due to "learned" embarrassment. Kids don't know that a question about the body is any different from a question about rainbows until they learn it from somewhere. By not "being weird" about it, it prevents the topic from being anything unusual.

So, in summary: act normal and talk normally about it. The body is normal. Periods, boobs, body hair - its all normal and natural (and not necessarily sexual either) despite what culture makes it out to be.

  • It is so easy for a child to develop a body image issue if this is not handled well. – Neil Meyer Feb 4 '17 at 11:24
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Starting when they are very young, talk incessantly about all aspects of how human bodies work, without shame and with high information content and curiosity. By the time they are teenagers, it won't be an issue, and they will view you as a source of helpful and fascinating information rather than embarrassment.

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    Maybe not "incessantly"... – user7953 Feb 8 '17 at 6:11
  • I imagine the word is supposed to be something along the lines of "regularly". Incessant implies excessive. – forest May 23 at 0:36

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