Knowing what to say and working out the best way to prepare your daughter for her first period can be a daunting time. What do I say? How do I go about ‘having the talk’? There are so many resources available now that can really help parents prepare their daughter as best as they can.
I remember when I young, I was reading encyclopedias about the human body and the Dolly Doctor section of the magazine. Some friends didn’t know anything about menstruation and thought they were dying when they first got their period. I knew that I wanted my daughter to be better prepared when the time came. I wanted the conversation to be light hearted, a bit of fun although very informative.
Here is some information that I think is important to discuss with your daughter.
Start having the conversation well before her first period may start. Most girls start to menstruate between the ages of 11 and 15, but anywhere from 9-16 years is considered normal. Most girls first period will likely start soon after they have had a major growth spurt and have grown some underarm hair (but not always). Your daughter needs to know what is going to happen in her body before she has her first period. A good place to start can be to talk to your daughter about your first experience. If there is no female parent and you feel your child would prefer to speak with a woman, maybe an aunt, an older sister or a female friend might be able to help.
Without freaking her out, explain what is going to happen when it starts. Be honest and answer any questions that may come your way. Some things your daughter needs to know and questions she may ask include:
- What a period is and how often to expect them?
- How much blood is likely to be there and how long will the bleeding last?
- Do periods hurt?
- Whether she can swim when she has her period?
- How to use and dispose of pads and tampons?
- What to do if she gets her period away from home such as at school or at a friend’s house?
- Whether she should use pads or tampons first
There are some great books to read that can help answer any questions she may have and to help understand what to expect.
- Girl Stuff by Kaz Cooke
- Secret Girls’ Business by Fay Angelo, Heather Anderson and Rose Stewart
These are great as a starting point although it is a good idea to then encourage your daughter to ask questions and continue the dialogue between you.
How will she feel?
Once you have started the conversation about menstruation and she has a basic understanding of what they are, it is a good idea to explain to her how she may feel during her period. You can talk to her about cramps and that it is like a stomach ache although is normal and isn’t anything too horrible. Even if you get terrible cramps and pain, still tell her this. Everyone’s body is different and you don’t know how your daughter’s body is going to act during menstruation. I think it is important to not evoke fear and panic when having the conversation and we certainly don’t want to scare them about the ‘joys of being a woman’.
I do believe however that we need to be completely open and honest when talking to our daughters although there is some things that are unknown, such as the degree of symptoms. It is also a good idea to have a chat about possible mood changes and how she may feel emotionally. It can be a good idea to give your daughter a bit more privacy and space around the time of menstruation, without making a big deal of it.
It is a good idea to show your daughter the different products there are, how to safely use each one and the pros and cons of each. It is really up to her then as to which one she thinks will be best for her body. Show her what a pad looks like, pour a bit of water to show her how it works. Tell her that they can feel a bit uncomfortable and show her that it just sticks to her underwear. Show her where the products are kept in the house for when she needs.
It can also be a good idea to have a little pack in her school bag with a change of underwear for just in case. Tip: Perhaps you could put her little pack in a pencil case instead of a toiletries bag. Toiletries bag is not very discreet. It’s the little things that can make our daughters feel a bit more comfortable about her periods.
Some companies offer free samples that they send out to help prepare girls for their first period. You can check out:
Some pack and products we recommend include:
It can also be good for your daughter to keep track of her periods in an app, a calendar or diary. This helps her to get to know her cycle and can help prepare her for things like sleepovers, school camps and swimming/athletics carnivals.
This is a good time to talk to her about the importance of good hygiene, disposing of products appropriately and showering regularly.
There is so much information that is out there now and it’s very likely that your daughter has picked up information from the Internet, YouTube and also from friends and other adults. It is important to ask her what questions she has and to straighten out any misinformation she may have.
Smile and be as positive as you can be. Your daughter getting her first period is a big step and we want them to feel that this is a milestone that you can share together, so it’s not so scary for them.
What about our son’s?
I strongly believe that we should be talking to our boys about periods as well. We don’t necessarily need to go into lots of detail although the basics is important. I think the best advice is to keep it simple. Boys will also hear things and read things and it is important to set the record straight and answer any question he may have. Boys need to know that periods are a normal bodily function and not something to be laughed at or teased about.
I have 3 sons, and I hope in the future that if it ever came to it, they would help a girl that might find herself in a bit of trouble. Half the population has periods, so why not make sure the other half is also well informed so they will grow up to be empathic and supportive.
It can be daunting having the conversation with your daughter about getting her first period and some parents feel anxious or even a bit sad with the thought of preparing them for this change in their life. It can help to share stories and strategies with other parents or caregivers in similar situations. What’s important is that we prepare our daughters and help them understand that it is a natural part of life.