While it’s not as dreaded as the birds and the bees talk, talking to daughters about periods is not usually high on the list of parenting milestones that moms look forward to. Take a deep breath and read through these tips to help prepare you for this exciting time in your daughter’s development.
While the exact timing depends on your child and your family culture, it’s important that you start talking about puberty and menstruation before your daughter begins her period. You’re likely to see other signs of puberty – developing breasts, pubic hair and/or vaginal discharge – appear before her period. When you start noticing these changes, it is time for you to bring up the subject if you haven’t already.
On the other hand, many girls begin asking questions at a fairly young age. If your daughter asks questions, be open, honest and age-appropriate. Start fairly generic and add more details as she gets older. Try having many smaller conversations instead one tell-all session. If your daughter is resistant, don’t force the subject that day, but don’t give up! Having honest and encouraging conversations with your daughter can help pave the way for open communication down the road.
On average, girls will start their menstrual cycles between the ages of 11 and 13. However, some can start as early as eight or as late as 16. While it is important to provide accurate biological information about what happens in her body (diagrams are helpful!), your daughter will likely be more interested in the practical side.
Many girls are anxious or frightened about their periods. Some may come with several questions, but others may be afraid to ask them. Ask what your daughter has heard and correct any misinformation. Assure her, empower her and provide practical tips so she knows what to expect. Some common concerns are:
- What if I get my period when I’m at school? Be proactive. Suggest she carry supplies with her in her purse or backpack or keep them in her school locker.
- How do I use a pad/tampon? Explain how to use and the difference between pads, tampons and panty liners. Provide several options so she can choose what she is most comfortable using. Empowering her to make her own decision, rather than trying to impose your own bias, helps her feel like the woman she is. No matter her choice, stress the importance of changing pads and tampons every three to four hours.
- Am I normal? Assure her that there is no normal and what she is experiencing may be different from her best friend. There is a wide range of ages when girls can start their periods and not all periods are the same. It may take several months for her cycles to become regular.
- Will it hurt? Assure her that it will not hurt, but that some women do experience symptoms like cramps. Most of the symptoms can be eased with over-the-counter medicines or heating pads. Learn more about menstrual cramps and other PMS symptoms.
- Will I gush blood? Most girls will only have light spotting for their first periods.
- Will everyone know I’m on my period? Make sure she knows that pads and tampons are not visible through clothes. She will be the only one who knows that she’s on her period.
Most of all be positive, open and encouraging. Let your daughter know that being a female is a blessing, not a curse, and that this is an exciting milestone and not a reason to feel ashamed or upset. Enjoy the time you can spend together and encourage her to come to you with any questions. Let her know that you are here for her, no matter what. How you embrace and lead her through this transition will lay the groundwork for how she feels about her body, health and femininity.
About Virginia Women’s Center
Virginia Women’s Center is a full-service women’s health care provider specializing in obstetrics, gynecology, urology, high-risk obstetrics, obstetrical genetic counseling, ultrasound, in-office procedures, mammography, bone health, psychology, nutrition and clinical research. The practice sees patients in four locations in the Richmond area and has additional offices in Kilmarnock and Tappahannock. For more information, visit www.VirginiaWomensCenter.com, or find us on Facebook, Pinterest and Twitter.