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Preparing Your Daughter For Her First Period

Preparing Your Daughter For Her First Period

We’ve all gone through puberty, but how (and when?) should you explain menstruation to your daughter?


She will always be your little girl, but as the years fly by, your baby will go through puberty and become a young woman sooner than you think. The average age of first menstruation is 12 and has declined steadily over the last 25 years, according to the Journal of Adolescent Health. So, with the possibility of your daughter experiencing the first signs of puberty as young as age 8, it’s vital to prepare her early.

But exactly when and how do you explain menstruation to your daughter? If your daughter asks questions about getting a period, answer them openly and honestly. Sure, it can be awkward for both of you, but being open and honest can help reduce some of that awkwardness and will prepare your child for her first period. If she isn't asking questions, it's up to you to start the discussion, according to The Mayo Clinic.

Have small chats about menstruation as the topic comes up.

Most mothers have had “those” moments. Your child follows you into the restroom and, as discreet as you try to be, notices that you are removing a tampon or something similar. Or perhaps your daughter becomes aware of the sanitary products at the store or a vending machine in a public bathroom.

Instead of scheduling a big “Period Talk,” take questions as they come. Try to explain menstruation to your daughter in the most simple, age-appropriate way. The more you talk about these topics in an open, matter-of-fact way, the more comfortable your daughter will be coming to you with questions and concerns.

You can also have some books about puberty on hand in case she has questions but is too embarrassed to ask you. The Care and Keeping of You: The Body Book for Younger Girls from American Girl, Celebrate Your Body (and Its Changes, Too!): The Ultimate Puberty Book for Girls by Sonya Renee Taylor, and The Period Book: A Girl's Guide to Growing Up by Karen Gravelle are all recommended by Common Sense Media for young girls. Flip through them at your local bookstore with your daughter and choose the one you both think is best for her.

Explain some of the signs of puberty.

Most girls will not begin to menstruate until they have grown armpit and/or pubic hair, have experienced some vaginal discharge, and have begun to grow breasts. All of these signs present parents with an excellent opportunity to talk about what may be coming next. It’s also a good idea to mention that everyone is different, so she may have her first period at a different age than her friends.

If she’s anxious to know how close she is to experiencing her first period, have her take this simple quiz.



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Assure her that menstruation is normal and healthy.

One of the most heartbreaking movie scenes of all time is in the Stephen King thriller, Carrie. High School student Carrie White is completely blindsided by her first period when she starts bleeding in the gym locker room. Having never been told of menstruation, she is terrified and convinced she is dying as the cruel girls in the class taunt her, flabbergasted that she doesn’t know what a period is.

Avoid this heartbreaking scene by explaining to your daughter (well in advance of her first period) that menstruation means her body is healthy and physically capable of pregnancy—all part of human development. The sight of blood is scary, so prepare her not to be alarmed by it. Make sure she understands that the color, consistency, and amount of blood can vary during one’s period; that it will likely be very light at first; and can last anywhere from 2-7 days, according to the Mayo Clinic. It’s also a good idea to explain potential side effects of menstruation—from cramping and headaches to nausea and diarrhea—and how they can be managed.

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Explain the various period products available.

Though it may seem obvious to an adult, a child doesn’t yet understand the differences between a tampon, a sanitary napkin, or a menstrual cup. Make sure she grasps the purpose of each and reassure her that when the time comes, you will help her learn to use them.

Prepare her for potential accidents.

Every woman has at least one story of being humiliated at school, when her period leaked onto their clothing, or at a sleepover, when she stained someone’s sheets. Explain that these accidents happen and ways to be prepared. Let her know that there is no reason to be embarrassed to tell another adult she’s had an “accident.”

Avoid accidents by having supplies on hand, doubling up on products, and dressing with the possibility of leaks in mind—every woman eventually learns the lesson of not wearing white pants during her period! There are even special period underwear, like Thinx (BTWN or Ruby’s Teen Period Underwear, which are designed specifically for tweens and teens to help prevent leaks and accidents.

Create a “Period Kit” she can keep in her backpack.

Put together a small pouch that can be kept inside your daughter’s backpack or tote with the following items:

  • an extra pair of underwear

  • a sanitary napkin

  • a tampon

  • personal cleansing wipes

  • hand sanitizer

  • and possibly, a little encouraging note from you

With this kit, when her first period does happen, she’ll be prepared wherever she is.

 

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Jennifer Weedon Palazzo

Author:

Jennifer Weedon Palazzo is a writer, actor, video producer, and the founder of MomCaveTV.com, an online network of award-winning comedy videos for parents. She lives with her husband and two very spirited children.

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