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As a dad of five, it’s not a stretch to call James Van Der Beek somewhat of a parenting expert. Between his bustling career and busy home life, the 42-year-old actor has learned a thing or two about balance and showing up for his kids, no matter what.

When he spoke with PureWow about his partnership with Always and Walmart to end period poverty, Van Der Beek was happy to share his parenting wisdom and the little tips he’s learned along the way raising Olivia (9), Joshua (7), Annabel (5),  Emilia (3)  and Gwendoline (1) with his wife Kimberly.

1. DON’T GET HUNG UP ON ANTICIPATION

In terms of advice he has for new parents, the Dawson’s Creek alum offered, “I felt like the anticipation of parenting was trickier than the actual parenting—especially the first time around.” He recalled holding his daughter Olivia and immediately feeling that the simple act of cradling her was parenting. From there, he said, you just need to make sure your little ones are safe and alive. 

2. ‘Work Can Be Pushed Aside Easier Than Pushing Aside Kids’

When it comes to work-life balance, the actor, producer and writer has learned that something has to give in order to make it all work. In his experience, he’s found that it’s easier and more meaningful in the long-run to rearrange work obligations or try and mold them to your family’s schedule rather than pushing away your children’s needs.

3. Leave Your Baggage About ‘Awkward’ Conversations at the Door

Van Der Beek admitted that prior to having daughters, he didn’t think a whole lot about periods, let alone period poverty (aka when a girl or woman doesn’t have access to feminine sanitation products because of her economic status). Now that his daughters are getting older, however, he’s been thinking about how he’ll approach the tricky conversations surrounding puberty. 

“I think the key is just being there for them and unloading whatever baggage you have…Shame and stigma around this is a learned behavior. It’s not a natural one,” he explained.

So how can we ensure we avoid coloring our kids’ thoughts on puberty? The former Dancing with the Stars contestant suggested calling everything by “it’s proper, clinical terms and not using cute little euphemisms or monikers for anything because even that, in a subtle way, signals that there’s shame around it.” He also challenges his fellow dads not to fall into stereotypes by telling their daughters they can’t talk to them about periods.

“My puberty education growing up was super awkward. Everyone started pretending that this wasn’t happening, that it didn’t exist—especially the boys because we had the luxury,” Van Der Beek recalled. “And then, as I became a father, I realized that approach is really detrimental to young girls…This is something that a lot of men still carry baggage about with their own puberty education and think it’s awkward to talk about.”

That’s part of why he, a man, was happy to sign on when Always and Walmart approached him to help end period poverty. “I was immediately really flattered that they viewed me as enough of an ally, and somebody that would be down for the cause,” he said. Now, for everyone who engages with Always and Walmart’s campaign video or Van Der Beek’s Instagram post, above, the company will donate pads to girls in need. That’s a cause we can definitely get behind. 

4. ‘You Have to Be Satisfied, Happy people in Order to be parents’

With five children, Van Der Beek admits that it’s sometimes challenging to get in alone time with his wife. Still, he says that he and his longtime love work hard to prioritize their relationship because they both know “You have to be satisfied, happy people in order to be parents.” And that means having the occasional adults-only night out and talking about something other than the little ones.

So when are you going to write that parenting manual, James?

RELATED: Taye Diggs, Chill Dad, Lets His Kid Enjoy This Dinnertime No-No & He Doesn’t Care Who Knows It

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