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!