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How Dads Can Support Their Teens' Menstrual Journey


A Latinx Family sit on the sofa, smiling and happy

One mother shares her experience on the important role dads can play in the emotional well-being of their menstruating teens.


Let's travel back in time to 2003. Location: 7th-grade language arts classroom. I just left the washroom when the bell rang so I was confused that I felt like I needed to visit it again. Running as fast as I could, I worried I would not make it in time. I made it with no signs of trouble. But as I sat down I noticed something distinct in my clothing. Was I dying? At that moment, I was my only support.


A memory of a 5th-grade field trip to the Robert Crown Center for Health Education started to play as a motion movie in my head. I took time to let my thoughts become still—that's when I realized I was experiencing my first menstrual cycle. My parents didn't prepare me for this moment. A stranger did. When the school nurse informed my mom. I was picked up and given the “YOU’RE A WOMAN NOW” talk. My mother was not as detailed as the stranger from the center but I was provided with the needed tools. I was left with so many unanswered questions.


Now, it's 2023. I’m a mother to a teen that has experienced her first cycle. Because of my experience of not knowing all the answers, I made sure to prepare her for this moment. My experience taught me that there is more to it than just getting them period care products and information to answer what's going on. Unfortunately, I missed one thing: preparing my partner who is helping raise this individual. I was able to understand the emotional stages my child was going to go through, but only because I experienced the same. But not preparing my partner could have changed the dynamic of their relationship, as it did with me and my father.


Growing up I was very close to my father. I was his official flashlight holder. I would spend days gardening, watching soccer games, laughing, bike riding, and having long conversations about the silliest things. It all changed when I started to experience my cycles. It was confusing at first, to go from one day loving to spend time with him to avoiding it at all costs. It was a slow process but after about a year, I fully detached from my father. It all started with the way he would lose patience with me for not being able to complete tasks he had seen me do before.


One hot summer day, my dad had just arrived with the flowers of the season that would make our house bright. It was my favorite time of the year. But that day I was experiencing cramps. Cramps that would leave me bent down kissing the floor.


I did mention above I was brought up in a very traditional Mexican household. Why is that important? In my culture, we don’t speak about what our bodies are going through with our fathers. My dad had no clue I was experiencing my cycle. I was stopping and not giving it my 100 percent during our planting adventure. I just said I was just tired but I could have at least said I had a stomach ache. But back then I believed he would find out that I was no longer a kid but a woman.


That day he fired me from being his assistant, as he would call me. If my father would have had an open conversation with me about this journey, I would have felt safe to express how I was feeling. Instead, we had a heated interaction. If we could have talked about menstruation, he would have understood that I needed rest on my period and we could have worked another time. But instead, I started to develop negative feelings towards my dad because he would do those things I loved doing with him with my other siblings and not me. I felt like an outsider.


Experiencing the change between my father and me, and now, as a mother stepping into my father’s shoes, I see the level of care and support a person needs through their menstrual cycle. This is a time I have seen my daughter being her most vulnerable. It's a period in time when she needs emotional support more than ever. And for her father and me, it’s our time to take the knowledge we have and figure out how to be a positive support system for our daughter when she’s experiencing sadness, insecurities, sleep problems, anxiety, and food cravings.


When my daughter is menstruating, we make an extra effort to repeatedly admire and highlight the things that make her special. Because of the hormones causing these insecurities, the answer might be “No! I feel gross.” But understanding that insecurities are in the playbook, we have developed patience. We might also have to reassure her multiple times before she starts to regain her confidence.


Another way we provide emotional support is to validate her feelings. We guide her to understand it is normal to have these emotions during menstruation. When we notice our daughter experiencing anxiety, we use it as an opportunity to explore coping skills, including journaling, drawing, and exercises. If anxiety is present during this time, it could be something she experiences on days when she’s not on her menstrual cycle. Learning coping skills could help her to take control and self-soothe when support is not near her.


But what her father loves to do most is to randomly surprise her with a basket full of her favorite snacks. He also always makes sure to order her food from her favorite places. Instead of doing activities that involve a lot of movement, she’ll put on her pajamas and catch a movie with her dad. Together, they compromise to make their bond stronger.


It takes a village to support our child to find her way through life. We make sure she is fully supported through the most vulnerable time of the month.




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