For parents raising a girl, talking about puberty can be complicated. As your daughter grows, they will quickly approach the years when their period is likely to start. While the average age to get a first period is about twelve years old, periods can start as early as age eight. While it may seem too soon for parents with young girls to need to start talking about puberty, it is important to open a dialogue when you feel your child is ready and able to start understanding what it means, which can actually be as early as six or seven years old!
Beginning these conversations early can help normalize periods, make puberty less confusing, and allow time to familiarize girls with the process of their changing bodies over time. So, to make your conversations about growing up a little bit easier, we have compiled a guide for everything you need to know about how to prepare your daughter for her first period so she can anticipate it with confidence.
Puberty can be very confusing for kids. It can be helpful to share the news in advance so your child can start learning early, avoiding her period taking her by surprise. You can start telling her the basics: what a period is and why it happens. Understanding the story can make the intimidating process less confusing and can help her feel more comfortable about her period as an event to look forward to.
You can begin by sharing with your daughter that one day, when she is old enough, she will find menstrual blood in her underwear. Explain that she can expect this exciting process to start at around age ten to sixteen as the built up lining of the uterus leaves her body as menstrual blood and tissue to prepare it to one day hold a baby. Let your child know that unlike cuts they might have received from falling during play time, the blood from her period is different and it will not hurt as it comes out. Unlike a wound, which would likely stop flowing in a few minutes, menstrual bleeding is like shedding. It happens every month and takes a few days to go away.
Once your child knows the basics about her period, you can teach her more as her first period gets closer, letting her in on what to expect. Explain premenstrual syndrome (PMS), by listing common symptoms such as breast tenderness, cramping, bloating, and mood swings that often take place the week before, or during, her period. Let her know that she might not have these exact symptoms and could even experience different symptoms such as acne, headaches, and changes in appetite, among others. Be sure to explain that every woman’s PMS experience is different and some experience stronger symptoms while others notice very little. Do your best to show your daughter that this is a beautiful process for women, and is not something to be feared.
For curious girls, it can be helpful to understand exactly what will happen. They might be expecting a gushing sensation rather than a gentle drip. Explain that for most women only a small amount of blood, about two to five tablespoons is lost over the course of two to seven days. Demonstrating this process by pouring a few tablespoons of water into a glass, or on pads, using a spoon or dropper can be a helpful way to help to understand what this process will look like. Let them know that since it is not like the blood from a cut, the color could be various shades of red, pink, or brown.
A key source of confusion surrounding preparing your daughter for her first period is how and when to offer what resources. You can start by explaining all of the options, how they work, and giving her time to decide which products she is most interested in using. Maybe period underwear is the easiest and most comfortable option for her to start with or maybe she prefers trying something a little more involved like pads, tampons, or a menstrual cup. Either way, remember that it can be very helpful to offer a demonstration of what each of the available products does and how to use and change them hygienically.
Aside from these products, girls can often benefit greatly from books about puberty that offer them a chance to study what will happen to their bodies on their own time and think of questions to ask as they arise. To make sure your daughter feels prepared, offer her a first period kit that she can keep in her backpack so that she always has hygiene products on hand in case her first period comes while she is away from home. A simple pouch with a pad and a change of underwear can have a big impact on helping girls feel confident and ready when the time comes, rather than worrying that it will take them by surprise.
While explaining the science is key to understanding, the most important part of preparing your daughter for her first period is ensuring that she knows she has a safe space in you and other trusted adults such as parents, older siblings, teachers, and doctors whom she can ask questions. Be sure to have a discussion where you can remind your child who they can go to and help them feel comfortable asking any questions they might have. When you approach the conversation, be as honest as possible without focusing on the negatives.
While periods are typically seen as a mother-daughter conversation, there are plenty of reasons your child might feel more comfortable with other family members involved. If your daughter is easily embarrassed, perhaps a teen sister or cousin might be able to help answer questions that your daughter is too shy to ask. Keep in mind that fathers can also play an active role in supporting their daughters as well. It is great for your child to know she can ask dad for help dealing with symptoms like cramps or if she needs more hygiene supplies. Although it can take time for girls to get comfortable with the changes happening to their bodies, it is important that they realize periods are beautiful and natural, not secretive or embarrassing. If your daughter is willing, involving multiple family members can help her see her period as the positive milestone it is.
At Coastal Kids Pediatrics, we know how important it is to give your child the information and tools they need to learn and grow to be the healthiest they can possibly be! We understand that talking about puberty can be tough, that is why our passionate Coastal Kids pediatricians are here to help your family through preparing your daughter for her first period with all of the resources you might need. If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to reach out. Visit us at www.coastalkids.com to make an appointment.