Children and tweens get their information about puberty and sex from a variety of sources – many of them not entirely reliable, so it’s important that they know they can turn to you to get information. Here’s how to make sure you have a helpful encounter with your daughter when it’s time to tell her about menstruation.
Be sure you know the facts!
Before you plan any kind of talk with your daughter, make sure you know the facts yourself. Read up on the kinds of things she might ask and have your answers ready. And if she says she knows about something, don’t assume her version is the truth! A handy way of finding out what she understands (and if it’s accurate!) is to ask her what she knows. You can take it from there (while correcting any misinformation along the way).
Start while she’s young
Studies show that puberty is starting at a younger age than it used to – possibly because of the rise in obesity and the presence of chemicals in food and in the environment. Having said that, the average age for the onset of the first period is 12.5 years old – although it is possible to begin as early as eight years old or at 15.
Female puberty follows three pretty predictable stages: the development of breasts, then pubic hair, and then menstruation. There is normally a gap of about six months to a year from the start of the development of breasts to the start of the period. And so if you keep an eye out for these physical clues, you should know when it’s about time to have The Talk in earnest.
But perhaps a better idea is to talk early and often to your daughter – about all sorts of things but also about the changes she can expect and what a period is. You don’t want to overwhelm her with masses of information all at once. And you do want to foster an environment that encourages questions and talking and the sharing of confidences.
The aim is to enlighten – not frighten – your daughter! Talk about the experience of menstruating in a positive way and avoid calling it “The Curse”, for example. There’s no need to spend too much time talking about period pains – they generally only start a year or so after menstruation begins.
Also reassure her that the blood is unlikely to come gushing out on her first period. Normally a first period is a light bleed, so if she notices some blood for the first time when she goes to the bathroom at school, a padding of some toilet paper should do the trick until she can get a pad.
If you feel awkward or flustered, you need to hide it: if your daughter picks up your embarrassment she will feel it too and will be afraid to ask questions. Matter-of-fact, positive, and practical is the way to go.
Pack a period kit
Put a little kit together that she can take to school with her, so that when that first period strikes she will be prepared. In a make-up bag put: a pad, some wet wipes, clean panties, and a Ziploc bag (for any soiled underwear).
Tampons or pads?
While it is best to start with pads, at least initially (they are making them lighter and thinner these days so no more embarrassing, uncomfortable bulkiness), tampons make life easier – especially if your daughter is going swimming or to ballet classes, for example. Tampons do NOT make you lose your virginity! Use the smallest kind, and show her how to insert them and remove them.
Other articles you may be interested in:
Dealing with PMS
Surviving that time of the month
What causes a headache?
What causes nappy rash?
Perfect timing for this article!!! Great tips.
Thank you so much for this article. Although its still some more years before my daughter will start, these tips will be remembered, especially the period kit tip.
My daughter and I have already done this drill. She was nine when she started her first period and because she was prepared it wasn’t all that scary.