Should Dads Talk To Their Kids About Menstruation?

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Acceptable pairing?

Researchers are asking fathers how they approach menstruation education with their children

Like nearly every other biological thing I can think of, I would vehemently answer yes to this question. A child’s first and forever teacher is his/her parents. We’ve talked candidly and profoundly about death and birth and sex with them because I think it’s helpful in understanding their place in the world and our roles as parents.

Scientists are “hoping to learn more about how and when fathers talk to both their daughters and sons about menstruation.”

I would add here, as in many other cases, a base knowledge should be imparted to the child along with how to find or rely on other resources that can sate the child’s intellectual curiosity beyond the proficiency of the father. Menstruation would be the prime example. There’s a lot I could address biologically and culturally, but once that overview was covered I would steer her to better sources because, like quantum physics or a perfect golf swing, my knowledge is limited. I don’t see the value in pretending that parents know everything; definitive, unquestioning authority is suspect to me, especially when considering the curiosity of a child. They’ll keep asking why until you don’t have an answer, unless you know definitively how we got here and what happens afterward.

Two researchers out of the University of Mary Washington are looking for fathers to respond to several questions about menstruation education. I have a boy, 7, and a girl, almost 6, who I’ve stopped from singing “I’m Sexy And I Know It,” by saying no, you’re not, (which I would say to any douchebag singing that song). It’s unfurled a whole can of questions that keeps pitting me further into a hole. We’re at a standstill over the question of if people are in love already (and thus having sex–again, not a comprehensive take here, just an overview) then why do they want to feel sexy? The kids know about sex and love, sex and procreation, and sex happens after college. Sex and lust will hopefully be discussed over a beer or three. And yes, they’ll both be getting the HPV vaccination.

Back to the point: In reply to my request for clarification, Mindy J. Erchull,  Ph.D., Associate Professor Department of Psychology at University of Mary Washington, explained the following:

“We have chosen to study this topic because remarkably little is known about how fathers believe that boys and girls should be educated about puberty or how fathers involve themselves in this education process.  Given this, we’re opted to undertake a broad survey of fathers to learn about their attitudes and beliefs on a variety of topics as well as their specific experiences with/plans for educating both sons and daughters about puberty. Given that research indicates that fathers are becoming more and more involved in raising children, it’s important to understand what they see as valuable in context like this as well as what fathers see their role as in regards to the education of both sons and daughters. Our hope is that this initial study will lead into a rich line of research as more questions arise as a result of this research project.”

The survey takes 15 minutes and it is anonymous, no mailing lists or crap to sign or log into. Several of the questions were unanswerable for me because I’ve lived long enough to know that projecting what other people might be thinking is most often wrong. Regardless, the survey got me thinking about where and how I learned such stuff when I was a kid. Also, on how attitudes are shaped. I found it worthwhile. I’m sure the results will be much more so.

—photo by robynneblume/Flickr

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About Robert Duffer

Robert Duffer (www.robertduffer.com) is the editor of the Dads & Families section of The Good Men Project. Winner of the Chicago Public Library's writing contest, his work appears in the Chicago Tribune, MAKE Magazine, Chicago Reader, Curbside Splendor, Time Out Chicago, Chicago Public Radio, Annalemma, New City, and other coffee-table favorites like Canadian Builders Quarterly. He teaches creative writing at Columbia College Chicago and lives in the suburbs with his wife, two kids, and their minivan. Follow @DufferRobert, Google+, facebook.

Comments

  1. My dad was. the. best. at dealing with periods. When my mom left, I was living with my dad when it all started. When other dads I knew got squeamish and wanted to pretend that that stuff just didn’t happen, my dad went out, bought pads/tampons/pain relievers, listened to me moan and groan about pain, and answered any and all questions that I had, and if he didn’t know it, encouraged me to look it up (as he typically did with any subject). When some of my female family members, including some of my aunts, refused to talk to me about my ladyparts, my dad was there. Though we are no longer on speaking terms, I can remember some of the things he was great about.

  2. First off, growing up in the 60’s-early 70’s, I wasn’t told ANYTHING about menstruation! All I knew from having 2 younger sisters is that it was messy, involved some kind of small diaper like ‘pads’ and it made me glad I was a male and didn’t have to deal with it. It wasn’t until I got married and saw how it affected my wife (she had what she referred to as ‘heavy flowing’) that I paid attention as in what I could do to help. Many years ago, when my middle daughter was 12 or so (she beat her slightly older sister ‘to the start’) That my attention sort of ‘payed off’. The Wife was in the hospital for some ‘repair work’ from when my son was born. After visiting her, my daughter asked me to go to the store with her. Now, my mother , my mother in law, and both my sisters were also there, but she insisted that I had to take her. She wouldn’t say why until we got to the supermarket. The entire isle ,about 70 feet long, was different types of ‘Feminine’ pads! Thats when years of picking them up for my wife payed off. I noticed at one end were the ,band aids’, as I called them. At the other were the ‘airline pillows’. So I split the difference and found what she needed.

  3. trey1963 says:

    I was the first person my eldest daughter informed when her period first arrived. Her mom and I had made sure she had the appropriate supplies in her book bag by the start of 6th grade. It is just not a big deal, if you don’t treat it that way. Funny thing is when she need pads etc… She asks me to purchase them as I will get exactly the brand style she requests….. her mom just get whatever she feels would work.

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