How do I explain menstruation?

When the parent has proved himself or herself as being capable of talking about sex with some degree of comfort, then children will begin asking questions. It is vital to encourage questions, to praise kids lavishly for asking questions. This should be easy to do, because there are few greater gifts than having a child who will bring his or her questions to you. But typically, you must earn this gift by establishing a track record.

Your child happens to see a used tampon or sanitary napkin in the trash with a little blood leaked through. The mother takes the opportunity to explain menstruation simply.

CHILD: Mom, what is that? Is someone bleeding? Did someone cut themselves?

PARENT: No, honey. That blood came out of my vagina. But I’m not sick or cut. Do you know why that happened? It is because I’m having what women call my “period” right now.

CHILD: Your period? What’s that?

PARENT: You know how God made all women so that they can carry a baby in their tummy, in their womb? The baby needs a way to get food and air, and the baby gets both from the mommy’s blood. God made women so that when they’re old enough to get a baby in their tummy, every month they get a little extra blood in their womb just in case a little baby starts to grow in there. But if there is no baby there, the extra blood just comes out so that fresh blood can be ready the next month if a baby comes then. So I bleed just a little every month, and that’s what a period is.

CHILD: Does it hurt? It always hurts when you bleed!

PARENT: Well, it doesn’t always feel great. It hurts a bit for a couple of days, but it’s not too bad. I’m just so glad that God made my body in such a special way that I can carry a baby inside of me and take care of it, like I did for you. That’s a real miracle! My period every month reminds me of what a miracle my body is!

Girls typically go through pubertal changes a year or two before boys. They go through unexpected growth spurts. Their breasts grow, beginning with development underneath the nipple (what is called the “breast bud”), and then breast growth spreads out from there. The girl has more body hair, starting with light pubic hair but including the development of underarm hair and possibly light fuzzy hair as a mustache. She can develop pimples and acne.

In the year following the beginning of breast development, she begins to get more pubic hair. Her labia, which form the outer part of her genitals, grow slightly larger and take on a deeper, ruddier color. Many parents do not realize that just as boys experience spontaneous erections, girls experience spontaneous lubrication of the vagina. Girls thus may begin to be aware of a feeling of “wetness” in their vagina and the crease between the labia. Some young women notice vaginal lubrication or wetness when they dream (this is the female version of a boy’s wet dream).

Menstruation typically begins between a year and a year and a half after the girl begins to experience breast development. She may experience backaches, tenderness of her abdomen, and a bloated feeling in her abdomen on an irregular basis for several months before menstruation begins. She should be well educated about menstruation before it begins. Initial periods tend to be irregular, and this is not a cause for alarm.

The girl’s first period is an important transition, something to celebrate. It marks the girl’s transition from childhood to the beginnings of adulthood, and this should be marked with intentionality. Whether you just have a positive talk with the daughter, a quiet and special dinner just for daughter and mother, or a family party, it is vital to make this a time of true affirmation. Starting menstruation is a symbol of her womanhood, of the totality of God’s marvelous gift of femininity to her. We should help her appreciate this great gift.

The earlier onset of puberty today creates a situation where a woman can get pregnant before she has the strength and physical stamina to tolerate a pregnancy well. Girls who give birth prior to age sixteen are much more likely to die in childbirth; their risk has been cited as being up to 400 percent higher than that of adult women. Early pregnancy also creates tremendous health risks for the baby. Babies born to young girls are more likely to be premature, to have low birth weight, and to have more birth defects. Complications with birth and prematurity can lead to such conditions as mental retardation.

 We have written two books for kids as they prepare for and experience puberty. What’s The Big Deal?: Why God Cares About Sex is written for kids eight to twelve and is designed for a parent and child to read together. Facing the Facts: The Truth about Sex and You is written for kids twelve to sixteen. These books contain thorough examples of how to talk to your child about the changes of puberty,


Some content taken from HOW AND WHEN TO TELL YOUR KIDS ABOUT SEX, by Stan and Brenna Jones. Copyright © 1993, 2007, 2019. Used by permission of NavPress. All rights reserved. Represented by Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. To purchase books in the GOD’S DESIGN FOR SEX book series, go to