Explaining Menstruation to Kids

Archived Q&A and Reviews

Explaining my period to a 2.5 year old

May 2006

This may sound like a strange topic, but my husband, 2.5 year old, and I all live in a small two bed, one bath home. Because of this, there isn't always a lot of privacy with the bathroom -- especially if my daughter has to go on her little potty while one of us is on the big one! I've been told that it's good not to let your toddler daughter see you putting in a tampon because she might try to mimic putting something in her own vagina. It sounds silly and prudish perhaps, but my daughter really mimics my actions a lot these days. And, I try to be pretty forthright and honest with her about things. But, every month I'm trying to distract her while I change my tampon -- and I even don't know if I should explain to her about period at all yet. I kind of would like to just to explain to her about how a woman's body works. How have you all handled it? Menstrual mommy

I strongly believe in simple, honest answers that give as little information as my child will accept. Long explanations overwhelm her and she often wants to know much less than her questions suggest. My 2.75-year-old daughter and I just had this conversation tonight and it wasn't the first time. She already knew what a tampon was called because she'd found one and asked what it was about a year ago and I just said ''It's a tampon.''

Today she saw me inserting a tampon and asked, ''What are you doing with that tampon? Why are you putting it there?'' I said ''Grown- up women have blood that comes out every month if they are not making a baby.'' She said, ''You're not making a baby?'' I said that I was not. She laughed and said, ''Why?'' I said, ''Because I already have one!'' She asked why I needed to stop the blood. I told her I didn't want it to get on my underwear or on my clothes. End of conversation. I think we started having this discussion when she turned 2, although she had found tampons and asked about them much earlier. After a while of knowing the name, I guess she wanted to know what they were for! Anon

How to explain your period to a 4-year-old

Sept 2004

Does anyone have any experience or useful advice about how to explain your period to an almost four-year-old? It hasn't come up yet, but there's not much privacy in my house (this was useful when we were potty training him, and the pattern of shared bathroom time is now solidly established) so I'm sure it will. I've managed to be sneaky so far.... His only understanding about blood has to do with being injured, so I just haven't been able to think of a good angle. Any wisdom out there? small bathroom

Remember that a 4 year old doesn't need a lot of info or complicated explanations. I told my boys that mommies get blood every month when they're not having babies. It has nothing to do with being hurt, it's just extra blood that the body doesn't need. That satisfied them and still does, my 9 year old. The 13 year old has the facts now. Good luck. mom of boys

What to say to a 3-year-old about tampons & pads

Aug 2003

I have a bright, verbal 3 1/2 year old who follows me around, and being a stay at home mom, she often follows me into the bathroom. My dilemma is this: Although I try to ''sneak'' to the bathroom during my period, she's seen me a few times while I deal with sanitary pads or tampons. In the past 6 months or so, she's started asking me what they are, what they're for, what they're called, etc. She seems to have no concern about the blood (I try to turn so she doesn't see it, but she has); she's just curious. What do other parents tell their young children about this? I'm even reluctant to tell her the word ''tampon'', for fear it will come up at the playground, much to my embarrassment. I don't want to lock her out of the bathroom; our family is very open and communicative, and I don't want her to feel like I'm hiding something. I don't mind that she sees this; I just don't know how to explain it in 3 year-old terms that will satisfy her curiosity. ''Special private mommy-things'' is the best term I've come up with; any suggestions would be appreciated! Speechless mommy

I am very frank about it. Many times I can't be alone in the bathroom, even on days I am not menstruating! My kids know that mommys have ''cycles'' and that I use my special pads for those days when I bleed. I was a little embarrased when my 5 yo son first asked me, but then I remembered that my mom never even talked to me about menstruation or sex at all. I don't really want either of my kids (I have a boy and a girl) to think that menstruation is embarrassing or some dirty secret. It is a sign of a healthy life. A few weeks ago my mom was visiting, and my 3 yo daughter came up to me with a wrapped pantiliner. ''What's this?'' she asked, and my mom laughed nervously and said that she'd find out about it later. How dumb is that? It's a pantiliner! So my son asked me, and then my daughter asked me, and I say, ''It's for my cycle.'' I'm a doula and apprentice midwife so I talk about babies and birth all the time at my house -- I think I said something about how menses shows mommies that they're not pregnant, and that one day my daughter will do it too. And then I asked them politely to leave me alone in the bathroom, please:)

Hi there, My 31/2 year old son is also curious about what is going on with mom during my period and I've decided to just use the ''adult words'' to describe what is happening. ''Mommy and other women menstruate once a month and we need to wear pads and tampons while the uterus sheds it's lining.'' He just looks at me and says ''oh'' and walks away. I do this with other questions too like, ''where does poop come from?'' We go through the esophagus to the stomach to the small intestines.....etc. He's learning about the body and I'm not struggling to find the right ''kid words'' to describe our physical processes. Hope this helps. roxanne

Hi, I had to talk to my toddler about my period because she noticed my pads at a time when she was being toilet trained. She kept asking me why it was ok for me to have a 'diaper' and not for her. She also did not seem to mind the blood at all. I told her that it was a special blood (actually at first I called it a special poop) that only moms have, and a diaper is needed for it. She asked me if kids get that special blood and I told her no, nor dads, nor grannies. This I think will preclude her talking about it at the playground, because it concerns only one group of people. She seems satisfied with the answer. Laura

When my daughter asked about the blood, I told her I am on my ''moon'' a term used in some Native American circles, although ''period'' works just as well. I explained it in similar terms as I do breasts, pubic hair, etc: that as she gets older, her body will change and that this is one of the changes. I define the tampon/pad in terms of what it does (''this is what mommmy uses to keep the blood off of my underware''). I don't think I ever told her the actual term tampon/pad. I think it is important to be honest, just give very simple explanations. If you find you are not comfortable talking about it just yet (because of her age), you might just need to close the door. I personally don't find euphamisims re: these issues sufficient- they only lead to more confusion, especially on the playground. anon

Hi, My daughter does the same thing. She is very interested in everything related to the human body. I have been really honest with her, using the correct words for tampon, pad and liner... When she asks what they are for, I tell her that I have my period and they keep my undies from getting dirty. When she has asked what a period is, I tell her that grown ups have a time every month when there body goes through some changes that can get messy. She seems really satisfied with this response for now. Good luck and congratulations on having an observant and curious child! proud mom of a curious daughter

Explaining the difference between menstrual blood and real blood to a toddler

June 2001

Has anyone successfully explained the difference between menstrual blood and the blood in your veins/body to their toddler? I am not uncomfortable with our toddler knowing about or seeing menstrual blood - it's all part of life to us. But we are struggling with a simple non-scary explanation. We would love to hear how others have handled this. Thank you.

As a single parent I was also faced with this when my daughter was very young. The first time she asked me what it was, I was completely at a loss. I didn't want to use the word blood, and instead said with as much authority I could muster that is menstural fluid. She accepted that answer easily, and even asked some questions about when and how it came out over the next several months. About a year later she finally pointed out that it looked like blood. At that time I told her that it did have some old blood in it that my body didn't need any more. She asked some questions about why my body didn't need it any more, which sparked an intreresting discussion about how uteruses work. She asked once about any possible pain, but seemed to totally accept that this was different than an injury. I think calling it menstrual fluid instead of menstural blood removed it from the association with injury. Hope this helps....but be ready for lots of questions.

I seem to be able to satisfy my almost three-year-old toddler's question about blood in the toilet by telling her that ladies lose a little bit of blood every month when they don't have a baby in their tummy. It seems to work for her...not too much information (though when I see it written out here, it sure seems like a lot...) Kate

My sons were probably about 4 when this issue came up. By that time we had alrady explained about Mommy having an egg and that a baby grew in a special place inside Mommy called a womb. Interestingly enough both sons were not interested until about 6 in how the baby came out only how it came in (we've always tried to be truthful - in ways that their age can understand, but we just respond specifically to the question asked and not give out more info than asked, if there is follow up questions then we answer those) - anyway menstrual blood was explained as Mommy makes a nest every month in her womb and when its not needed because there is no baby growing inside, then the old nest comes out. Anyway, that's how we explained it. Karen

I read about a mom using this explanation: the blood is food for a baby and if no baby is growing, the blood comes out and it doesn't hurt. Jennifer

Regarding the menstrual blood, I told my daughter that: It's special blood that makes a nest for the baby in mommy's belly. It doesn't hurt at all. If the mother doesn't get a seed to grow a baby that month, then the nest goes away and next month is another chance for the mommy to make a nest for a baby. (yes, I'm trying to get pregnant.) Michele

I recently heard a friend tell her toddler/3-year-old that it is blood her body doesn't need because she's not making a baby, and she's not worried about it because her body gets rid of that extra blood every month or so, and it never hurts or makes her sad. It's not an owie. Laura

We told both our boys that Mommy gets blood every month thats not from an owie and it doesn't hurt. WHY? is the obvious next question....I said something about the blood is there when mommies aren't making babies. That seemed to satisfy them. I'll be interested to hear other parents stories.

The first thing I told my 4-year-old was that this was a different kind of blood than the blood in the rest of my body and in his body and it did not mean I was hurt. Women bleed this way regularly and it means they are healthy and can have babies. When the baby grows inside, the blood helps keep the baby warm and protected. (That's not exactly accurate, but it communicates that the blood is a nurturing thing.)

This isn't any sage advice, just a description of what happened in our house. When our son began to notice, I said it was blood. He is familiar with tampons having accompanied me to the bathroom on numerous ocassions, and when asked I said the tampon was to catch the blood. No further questions on my son's part so that was that. Weeks or months later he asked why the blood was there. I said it was to help a baby grow and if there was no baby growing, the blood came out. Again, no further questions and that was that. Weeks later, my son said, the baby growing in the belly eats the blood. He didn't seem at all disturbed by this, just seemed like he was looking for clarification. He has also seen his birth photos which show a fair amount of blood. I told him that was good thinking, but that while the blood helped make a healthy home and food for the growing baby, the baby didn't actually eat the blood. Usually when my son is done, he says, Oh. and that is that until later. I read that it's helpful to get clarification about what the child really wants to know and to answer with a simple, minimal answer. If more information is wanted, the child will ask. In this way, children aren't overwhelmed with more information than they are ready. This has been helpful guidance for us. The book has a title something about raising children with healthy sexuality. stern