I thought this might be a very useful post, though I have to admit I’m not a parent nor someone who has had to raise a child with no female support. Before embarking on this post, I have done my research as well as talk to fellow single-fathers, including one of my gay male friends who has adopted a young girl. At some point or another, most of these men will have to explain the intricacies of menstruation to their little (but growing) girl. With menarche beginning at an earlier age than ever before, these men will be challenged ever so much with handling their daughter(s) period, particularly when their daughter is too young to even fully grasp the concept. Also, never having periods ourselves, it only makes our job that much harder and not even able to have experienced what periods feel like. Nevertheless, not having the experience, doesn’t mean we still can’t be prepared. Rather than concentrate this post on saying, “What is the wrong action to take” or “How to do it the right way” I hope this entry will provide some tidbits on how I would feel if I were stuck in such a situation. Every person is different so while one method may work for one, others may not. With the age of which girls are starting their periods, it might be hard for us now to rely on schools to provide the education. In our province, the revised Sexual Education curriculum was dropped due to objections from religious groups (don’t even get me started on this), so you’re much better off as a parent (or parents) to provide your own and proper education.
Part of making your own job easier as a father having to talk to your daughter about menstruation is to foster a close enough relationship with her where she feels comfortable talking to you about it. This type of relationship is not something that builds overnight, but something that must start from day one with your child. I understand in situations where a man has suddenly lost his female companion that he would not have thought about having the bear the responsibilities of a single dad, but certainly, why would you not want to build a strong relationship with your own daughter anyways? It is my hope that should I have a daughter(s), that they will not only feel comfortable talking about their bodies and menstrual health with their mom, but also myself. Being a part of their well-being from birth will stress to them that daddy is also available to talk just because we have not experienced the same thing. I understand some people will argue that as a male who has never experienced menstruation, what place would we have to be a part of educating a female on menstruation… but just because you’ve never been shot before, doesn’t mean you don’t know a bullet is painful (that comparison wasn’t meant to denote the relationship between a gunshot wound to menstruation, that was strictly a coincidence).
The next point is about educating yourself. Whether you had a female partner or not at some point in your life, menstruation may still be a very abstract thing for you. With the world of the internet, you no longer had to be like me, hide in the corner of a library and read up on the female body and menstruation and turn red as people walked past me. There are plenty of resource articles (many which are more professionally written than this) on menstruation which you can learn from. Before you can really make your little girl feel comfortable expressing her own worries to you, you must at least know a bit about her body as well! If you show discomfort, it will only convey to her that her body is something to be shameful over and that a natural bodily function like menstruation is not something “normal”. I’m sure that as a single father, there must be at least some sort of female support you may have, friends, family or whatnot who you can turn to for help should you want some anecdotal knowledge. I’m also sure a medical practitioner would also be able to assist should you not be capable of assisting your daughter fully.
Periods aren’t a curse nor something “bad” – and periods happen for a reason. One of the single dads I talked to told me that when his daughter grows up, he’ll try to persuade her into “getting rid of her period” either by surgery or through hormonal control. I was really taken aback by this because it almost seemed like because he didn’t want to deal with his daughter’s period that he wanted to simply make it a non-issue. Something also seemed unusual that he would be making such an important decision on behalf of his daughter, even though it isn’t like she has a disability where she wouldn’t otherwise be able to make an informed decision. Getting rid of menstruation is a very big thing and I think it should be something up to the girl to decide on, unless she’s incapable of doing so. The start of your daughter’s period is something to be happy about, she’s becoming a grown woman and it indeed provides an extra opportunity for father-daughter bonding. Yes, it might come with some pains and tears, but you should always have an open arm and receptive ears for her to come to in time of need. Don’t forget that as uncomfortable as you may be having to do the “period-talk” that it’s only twice as bad for her.
Menstrual education should start young to build comfort and knowledge. I’m not necessarily saying to remove all childhood carefree life, but certainly a slow introduction of reproductive health might help sooth the way to discussing menstruation. In fact, one thing I’d really take advantage of is a “doctor, dad and daughter” talk at a regular visit. With the presence of a medical professional, it will ensure accurate knowledge and it will show that daddy is both learning so that he can teach and be comfortable with menstrual talk. Much of the male disgust behind menstruation stems from generations of misinformation and misunderstanding. Would we rather our future generations live in ignorance or in knowledge?
Parenting is a very difficult thing and though I am not yet a parent, I have already seen many friends and family alike who have sent the fear of parenthood through my spine. One day, I will meet parenthood with both anxiousness and fear, for it is an opportunity to grow, learn and teach all at the same time. I know that teaching children is beyond what I can comprehend right now. In my opinion, I would try to teach my children about sexual education through age-appropriate means (which would vary between child-to-child, some are more knowledge/mature than others). To scare a child into knowing something they’re not prepared for would only cause terror and ruin a carefree childhood. At the same time, not preparing them means they will meet fear face-to-face. Even if I did not go into details about menstruation with my daughter, I would definitely make her aware that should she begin menses, that she should let me or mom know and that ‘bleeding’ from her vagina is not a sign of injury. As with most guys, we consider bleeding to be a source of injury and pain (which is not ALWAYS the case with menstruation), therefore it already makes a “bad association” in our minds. I want to convey to the guys out there that menstruation, while resembling a cut, is nothing even close to it. I actually find that blood from injuries tend to cause more fear and disgust than menstruation does… or rather, I should correct myself and say that I don’t fear or feel disgusted at menstruation at all, but then that’s just me 😆
To be honest, it’s hard to have “sex talk” with your child, let alone something so very intimate such as menstruation. As a single-father, it becomes even harder as a result of the lack of female support. However, know that you are not alone and if you do a simple Google search, there are MANY men out there who are all brave like you to raise a daughter (or even daughters) on your own! Your daughter might even feel embarrassed to talk to you about it, so you must be receptive and at times if you feel she might already have had her period, try to strike up a conversation about it. Your daughter might be more apt to answer “yes I did get my period” than to have to bring the topic up herself. Of course you don’t want to be the dad that hounds her to see if and when she got her period, but then you also want to ensure the channels of communication are available and that if she’s not going to approach you, that there are telltale signs of menstruation. Unless she’s hiding her disposed feminine hygiene products (including wrappers, applicators, etc), there will usually be some noticeable evidence. If you don’t want to be upfront with your approach of asking her, a simple trip to the supermarket with her could be an opportunity to walk down the feminine hygiene aisle casually and inquire as to whether she needs anything. Sometimes the best conversation is no conversation, if she does need something and she doesn’t look like she’s in the mood to talk, just let her place what she needs in the cart/basket and off you go!
Other than a leak the next embarrassing thing might just be having to purchase your own feminine hygiene supplies. When I asked most of my girls, they sometimes dread buying pads and tampons more than even bleeding through panties! Why? Because at least you can hide leaks, you can’t hide such obvious purchases! For most of my girls, I quelled those fears pretty fast, either with them or without. I have always been around for (well at least most) my girls and I typically will go out and buy their feminine hygiene supplies before/during their period. They were always able to rely on me as an “older brother” or even my bebe lets me buy her stuff for her. With that said, me buying their stuff has actually helped them get over the fear, because hell, if I’m a guy and buying “this stuff” – wouldn’t it be even more natural for a girl to be buying it? Likewise, as a father, buying your daughter’s feminine hygiene products is an essential demonstration to her. First of all, there should be at all times available feminine hygiene supplies in the house AND she needs to know where they are (better yet, even know how to use it). Keeping some in multiple places might be beneficial, in her room, in the bathroom and perhaps in a closet of some sort. Heck, sometimes removing the discreteness of these products in the bathroom help encourage openness. I have been to some of my friends house where they OPENLY have pads or tampons in the bathroom. Depending on how comfortable your daughter is with discussing her menstrual cycle with you, it might even be possible to encourage her to try various brands and types of protection. Again, the internet is a great resource and having some knowledge on these products (such as the differences between pads/tampons/liners, wings/no wings, and proper usage) will truly help her.
Don’t forget, buying feminine hygiene products for your daughter is something to be proud of and that any loving father would do. You’d be surprized how many guys do it and if you actually spend a day in a supermarket, you’re likely to see quite a very occurrences of it. A lot of the time, we just sometimes don’t notice these things and pretend it doesn’t happen, but in reality, I’ve seen many guys buy these items before on their own. The great thing about being a guy and buying feminine hygiene products is that people will never assume it’s for you! So what’s there to be ashamed of right?!
I know I often put a lot of emphasis on disposable products and that’s truly unfair. However, I think certainly disposable pads and tampons are where most women start off anyways. Once your daughter becomes accustomed with taking care of her own body and handling her menstrual cycle, another great option for those who want to penny-pinch is to consider reusable products. Not only do you save a lot of money ($$$), it is also a great way to teach your daughter to become “in-tune” with herself, be eco-friendly and encourage great bodily health. If you’ve never thought of how much you (and your daughter) could really be saving, consider taking a look at this great chart provided by Lunapads (http://lunapads.com/why-switch#cost-savings). In my own opinion, I have found that many women who use reusable products often are much more open-minded about menstruation and female body/health.
For those who live in Canada or the US, you can also consider a great menstrual resource like Bepreparedperiod and particularly their store should you rather be able to purchase pads/tampons for your daughter online or even schedule recurring deliveries. If you or your daughter believes that tampons are going to be part of your menstrual repitroire, ensure that she is aware of the potential dangerous of tampon usage. It is both your responsibilities to ensure that proper usage knowledge is understood, particularly due to the potential of TSS (Toxic Shock Syndrome), a deadly viral infection. You can read more about TSS and the realities of it at YouAreLoved. I see many forum posts of girls who ask, “How do I talk to my dad about my period?” so make sure you validate your daughter’s concerns as being valid and that you are always willing to listen. A person cannot know everything, so whether you have to turn to the internet, a friend, family member or even stranger (such as a nurse or doctor), your daughter’s well-being and health should be your top priority. There are times when we must set our own shyness or pride aside for our family!
After finishing this post, I realize that some of the information in here might be pertinent to any father, not just single-dads. Nevertheless, this is hardly the exhaustive resource and all the possible angles I could cover, but then there are only so many hours in a day 😛 Anyone who needs more information, please feel free to comment or send me an IM/Email. I am also available on twitter (though it’s publicly viewable so if discussing menstruation is not comfortable for you, you may not want to contact me through twitter) @ http://twitter.com/MenMenstruation
Thanks for reading and don’t forget that your daughter will thank you and love you forever for which you have done for her!
Although not all of it is directly related to periods, certainly, the earlier onset of puberty will inevitably mean earlier menarche and young girls who are unable to cope with changes to their body at such a young age, particularly with the early sexualization of girls. This is a repost from http://www.besthealthmag.ca/embrace-life/home-and-family/are-girls-growing-up-too-fast
Are girls growing up too fast?
Breasts at age eight; first period by age 11. Are kids hitting puberty younger–and should we worry?
By Mary Teresa Bitti
The onset of puberty for females now ranges from age eight to 13, and is typically defined as the beginning of breast development. “If a girl comes in at age nine with the start of breasts, that is normal,” says Dr. Rose Girgis, a pediatric endocrinologist at Stollery Children’s Hospital in Edmonton. “After about two years of these first signs, parents can expect their daughters to have their first menstrual period.”
While there is no Canada-specific research, a large-scale American study in 1997 showed that the average age girls get their first period has gradually fallen over the centuries, dropping from age 17 to about age 12 today.
A 2009 study from Denmark shows that girls in Europe are also entering puberty earlier. There is research arguing that the age of puberty in boys has also come down, but not as dramatically.
The many theories
Parents, doctors and the media have floated around theories as to why girls in particular are maturing earlier: Is it hormones in some of the meats we eat, products we’re exposed to that contain chemicals which mimic hormones in the body (think bisphenol A, banned in Canada for use in baby bottles), the growing trend to childhood obesity, or even the early sexualization of children via the media?
In effect, each of the theories is possible, but there is no hard data to prove that any of them is the actual cause, says Dr. Mark Palmert, head of the division of endocrinology at The Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto.
“There have been reports of isolated exposures to environmental chemicals leading to early puberty,” says Palmert. “But to say that environmental exposure is widespread and that this is why girls are now starting puberty earlier is much less clear.”
Kids are exposed to environmental estrogens or endocrine-disrupting chemicals found in everything from insecticides and pesticides to nail polish, makeup, lotion and plastics. Extensive research has shown that these chemicals send signals through the estrogen pathways that can trigger early breast development and puberty in girls.
“Have such exposures affected the pubertal development of the population as a whole? We don’t know,” says Palmert. “It depends on when, how and to what extent the child has been exposed. It’s going to take a lot of good epidemiologic data to prove cause and effect, and that may be difficult because effects can depend on the route, the dose and the time of exposure.”
The cause-and-effect link is further blurred when it comes to the impact of the overt sexuality found in magazines, movies, TV and music videos. Some researchers argue that today’s kids are constantly exposed to sexual stimuli and this might somehow trigger their bodies to adapt accordingly.
“While there is evidence that your mind can affect some systems in the body such as the immune system, there is no hard evidence that those kinds of signals are changing the timing of puberty in the general population,” says Palmert. “There is less buy-in to this hypothesis.”
One of the biggest areas of concern for parents is the growing trend of obesity in children and the role it may play in early puberty. On average, girls who are overweight begin puberty earlier. Hormones released from the added fat cells could play a role in girls maturing faster. “Again, it may be a factor, but we don’t know how much of it is related to being overweight or if this is a definitive cause of earlier development in the general population,” says Palmert.
The most likely cause
The good news is parents can relax: The most accepted reason for the earlier start to adulthood is better nutrition and health. “You need to be about 93 lb. to be able to men-struate, and in previous centuries this weight was attained later, at around 16 years of age,” says Dr. Franziska Baltzer, director of the adolescent medicine/gynecology program of the Montreal Children’s Hospital. “Today, we are eating better and we’re healthier.”
In fact, historically the earlier onset of puberty in girls was not necessarily seen as a bad thing. In the past, it was perceived as a sign of our progress, just like people getting taller was, says Palmert. “More recently, as concerns about early development have increased, researchers started looking for unhealthy explanations for it, and ideas about better health and nutrition gave way to environmental issues.”
While the health consequences of earlier puberty are not clear, and more focused research is necessary, some studies have linked early puberty in girls to increased risk for self-destructive behaviours such as drug and alcohol abuse, early sexual experimentation, depression, heart disease and breast cancer. But in fact early onset of puberty in girls is rarely a cause for medical concern.
The fact is, girls tend to follow in their mothers’ footsteps when it comes to puberty, and boys in their fathers’. “Heredity does play a role in when a child enters puberty,” says Girgis.
How parents can help kids
What’s the best way to help your child— and you—adapt? “Parents should keep in mind that puberty brings many changes—hormonal, behavioural, and some emotional confusion,” says Ester Cole, a psychologist in private practice in Toronto and the current chair of Parenting for Life, a non-profit education program promoting positive parenting skills. “So children may not want to talk to you as much. It doesn’t mean they are angry with you. They are struggling—and the younger they are in the developmental stage of adolescence, the more confusing it is.
“As parents, we have to realize that the physical, emotional and cognitive changes are all happening simultaneously and that there is no linear path of progression simply because their bodies are maturing,” she says.
According to Cole, the best thing parents can do when puberty hits is give their kids some latitude, and listen. “Positive communication and reinforcement is always important. We are good at this when they are younger, but we tend to think they need it less as they get older, particularly when they look much older than they are.”
This is particularly important as children come to terms with their changing bodies. And parents need to realize that there isn’t going to be a direct line from puberty to sexual exploration, and a sudden boy-crazy/girl-crazy attitude.
“It’s important to maintain a clear value system at home so children feel there is psychological security and a sense of acceptance while they exercise new choices,” says Cole.
Yesterday, I had the fun of doing some massive eating. On top of getting up at 8AM in the morning to go out with a friend to eat breakfast because she needed someone to pick up/spend time with her while her car was in for repairs, my aunt/uncle also came to visit a few hours later to do an early celebration for my birthday at our nearby sushi buffet. Let me just say beforehand that it was a very filling day. Because I already knew my aunt/uncle was coming in at around lunch time, I decided to take it easy on breakfast. The breakfast was pretty expensive, $8.50 but it did have a good variety and the presentation was nice. I suppose mid-class places always have these outrageously inflated prices… I had a breakfast, not a steak lunch, lol. Not my type of place, but she chose it, so oh well. Definitely not a place I’d take my BeBe though or any girl on a date for that matter. If I’m paying those kind of prices, the décor better be stunning, like Spice Avenue or Lord Byron’s. Although I had to watch my time and make sure I was home before my family arrived, there was still a good 3 hours for E and I to talk.
My conversations as per usual, go from left, right to centre, wherever the topic ends up going. One of the more interesting and on-topic (for this blog) that came up was the early maturation of girls and the removal of once, innocent little girls. The amount of information in this world available to boys and girls these days severely cripple the innocent childhood that I and many preceding generations had, especially when it comes to topics of sexuality. For those who don’t know me well, I do err on the side of liking younger girls and by younger, I don’t mean underage. However, give me an 18-year-old girl and I’d be all over that, even though I’m effectively 7-years older than her, lol. Beyond the amount of knowledge floating around these days, you have more occurrences of puberty hitting girls at a much younger age defined as precocious puberty when it occurs before 8 years old. The earlier on-set of puberty in girls are definitely scary for the guys, haha. My friends and I have all-too-many-times looked at a girl, thought we’d take a second glance, only to notice that she definitely did not look legal. Having saw a “mature-looking” Asian girl in Kelseys the other day while eating dinner with my friend, I mentioned to him, “Hey, check out that cute girl over there.” Only for him to reply, “Dude, that girl looks like she’s still in high-school.” Ewwww. She had the full package, voice was no longer squeaky little-girl voice, she had the upper-body parts developed and the height, but the conversations they were carrying out were definitely indicative of being high-school girls. This was not the first time or the last something like this will happen.
Now of course to say the only issue of early puberty is because we guys can’t tell the difference would be truly wrong. The severity of earlier on-set of puberty for girls is that it could be indicative of existing health conditions such as tumours, social behaviour issues and effects on psychological development. While menstruation used to begin at the average of 15-years, it has now been reduced to 12.5-years and most notably is the fact that these age averages might be dropping even more as a result of early female maturation. Part of the reason why we’re hearing about so many teenage pregnancies is that this early on-set of puberty has resulted in girls becoming an earlier target of sexual interest. At such young ages, girls don’t have the mature mentality to deal with sexuality in a responsible method, thus, many are falling prey to becoming pregnant as a result of unsafe sex. To downplay the feeling of sexual arousal to boys and girls when puberty occurs would be foolish. Hormones are surging throughout the body and people do uncontrollable things. Many people claim that girls are becoming sluttier and guys look up to being players, but the reality is that during the phases of puberty, the body is extremely horny. Mind you one of the guys I used to hang out with had this really bad reputation of having to spend at least 2-3 hours in his room and it certainly wasn’t for the purpose of studying. Girls are steadily catching up to boys. Where masturbation for girls used to be a frowned-upon activity, it is becoming more prevalent and a talked-about subject between the female populace. For guys, it is almost assumed it is done, so it is even more awkward for a guy to not admit doing it.
I remember how innocent boys and girls used to be, me being one of them. We didn’t need to know those “adult things”, we played in the park, throw rocks in the pond, played “doctor” without sexual implications and knowing any better, got my first kiss in kindergarten and had no sexual urges, had a crush on my elementary school French-teacher, and wondered what cool things the vending machine on the girl’s washroom wall gave out… was it chips, pop, gum (how come they have it, and we don’t? :() The reality is that knowledge of sexuality is becoming more prevalent at younger ages and in the past year, have spent more time doing business of installing parental filtering/monitoring software on computers more than anything. I can’t remember the first time I wanted to see a female body naked, it was really a long time ago, lol. Don’t forget that years ago, such access to material was considerably harder since it was on paper-media (magazines), late night TV (was asleep already) and the internet was text-based.
This leads me to the point where I truly miss the innocence in girls. Poh Ching claims to be innocent, but I know better 😛 Tsk tsk. Is it better for our current generation to know more and be aware or is it better to know less and not as aware? Not knowing will definitely allow for a longer period of innocence within our younger generations, however, may have a “shock” value when they find out about adult-related subjects. On the other hand, knowing more and being aware has brought along the side-effects of curiosity. Sometimes the more humans know, the worse off they are, especially those of inquisitive nature. Luckily for me, all the girls I’ve dated with the exception of one have all been the innocent type… or at least I perceive them to be innocent, lol. I prefer my girls not to know too much and still have the innocent angel within them. I’m not sure whether I’d want my girls to actually understand a dirty joke if I made one, haha… I’d be slightly scared if she did, especially particularly bad ones. See how annoying humanity is – we always want the best of both worlds – innocent and not innocent, hah.
Then it makes you think does a point of innocence when you reach into your twenties that it is still “cute”? I made that point to P.C, asking her where you cross the line of being innocent to the point when you just seem retarded, lol. One of my best friends’ cousin really stirs our thoughts when it comes to innocence. They used to live together and I’d hang out at their house all the time and my friend (henceforth denoted as M and her cousin, B) and seriously B is like the pinnacle of innocence. Every time M and I would make dirty jokes or references, B would ask, “What does that mean?” For a while, M and I thought that B was just trying to act innocent and pretend she doesn’t know what we’re talking about – but that’s not the case – she was truly clueless. Even today being in her 3rd year of university, she is still awkwardly innocent, I wonder how she survives. Given how her boyfriend is constantly waiting to pounce on her (sexually), it makes me feel bad for the poor guy having such a ditzy girlfriend, LOL. Don’t think I have a problem with B though, she’s a very gentle, kind, outgoing and pretty girl – I just think that when you’re too innocent, sometimes you just become a bit socially awkward. Just these two are totally opposites of each other… the guy can’t wait to rip her clothes off and the girl is totally clueless that he’s thinking about these things (while all the other 9 people in the room can clearly see it). Not sure who I feel more sorry for 😀 There are more stories about her, but I’ll leave it for another time.
I actually had more to write about this, but I swear I’m getting old and senile (and will be even OLDER in 11 days, ewwwww). Once I slept on this information last night, by the time I woke up this morning, I had totally forgot all about the important content I wanted to include. Therefore, this entry will have to abruptly end since I don’t have an “end point” for this topic. Perhaps I will think of it and continue to update this entry if it hasn’t been pushed off the first page or simply continue on a new once. Sheesh, age hurts! Given how fast girls are reaching puberty and thus starting their periods, perhaps I should start investing money into feminine hygiene stocks as hopefully women will have more menstruating years before menopause! Let’s see how much money I have in the bank account and start looking into it, haha.