Your tween is getting to an age where the “period conversation” is inevitable and although to you she still feels like your baby girl…Read More
Your tween is getting to an age where the “period conversation” is inevitable and although to you she still feels like your baby girl, you’d rather she hear it from you than from a friend on the playground or worse, from Google.
If at all possible it is better to have the period chat with your daughter before she actually has her first period, as this will prepare her for what is to come. Keep in mind that the average age for getting your first period is 12 years of age according to kidshealth.org. A good way to gage when your daughter might have hers is this: most girls get their first period 2 years after their breasts start to develop.
To help you deal, I have put together 8 tips to teach your daughter about her cycle and to handle this big change in her life constructively.
1) Normalise it. The first step to telling your daughter about her menstrual cycle is normalising it. Explain to her that every single woman on this planet has a period. Olympic gymnasts have periods, Astronauts have periods in outer space, her aunt has a period, Kendal Jenner has a period and so does Zendaya. Many teenage girls believe that when they are having their period they are sick and cannot achieve or participate in normal activities, therefor by explaining that a period should in no way hamper their ambitions it sets them at ease.
2) Don’t discuss the negatives. Instead of focussing on “Aunt Flo” and the mood swings, stomach cramps, nausea and headaches she may cause, deal with period symptoms as they crop up. Instead of telling your llama all the negative symptoms that some women experience, focus on the positives instead-she is growing up, she will one day be able to be a mother and she is healthy and fertile. Then if she does experience a negative symptom, treat it as it occurs.
3) Demystify it. Many girl’s imaginations runs riot when they first hear about menstruation. Using visual aids to explain the physical occurrence helps to demystify it. Girls imagine a rush of blood streaming out of their bodies. Cara Natterson, M.D., paediatrician and author of The Care and Keeping of You suggest that one should explain that your uterus is about the size of your closed fist, and the lining of your uterus is just the inside of that fist. When you get your period over the course of several days, that lining of old blood and tissue slowly comes out of your body. Usually it’s only about three tablespoons of blood total. “When you show them in a cup what three tablespoons is, they realize it’s not a lot.”
4) Show and Tell. When having the period conversation it is a good idea to show your daughter the various options available to her. Have some tampons in different sizes and pads in different shapes available for her to touch and interact with. Demonstrate how the tampon expands in your body by dipping it in a narrow glass of water. Also show her how to remove it by pulling the string. Remember that your daughter’s body might be different from yours and her cycle might be different too. Let her use what she feels comfortable with instead of pushing your personal preferences onto her.
If your daughter does want to try tampons it is a good idea to show her the step-by-step instruction leaflet in the packet. Some moms are hands on and want to help, while others prefer to instruct from outside the door. Both of these are kind, involved and supportive. Dipping a non-applicator tampon in a lubricant like Vaseline or KY Gel before insertion will help your daughter to “get it in” when she is just starting out.
5) Be prepared. Put together a first period kit for your daughter containing pads, panty liners, tampons, feminine wipes and a clean pair of undies. Put this into a pretty pouch that fits into her school bag. Starting your period on a on a camp or sport tour is every girls’ worst nightmare so make sure they have their pouch with them even when they leave the house for extra circulars. This negates the embarrassment that comes with having to ask for supplies. Remember to restock the pouch when she is having a regular cycle.
6) Keep it clean. Discussing personal hygiene and reminding your daughter of its importance especially when she is menstruating, is necessary. Educate her on how to deal with accidental leaks. Explain to her that she doesn’t have to wash with special products, but that warm water is good enough. Also explain the importance of changing a pad or tampon regularly. Often girls use larger tampons to avoid changing them three hourly. Please discuss the health risks involved with this with your daughter.
7) Get dad involved. Allow dad to be part of the conversation around the change in your daughter’s body. If your teen is comfortable to tell her dad: “It’s that time of the month,” it allows dad to empathise by discussing the changes they went through during puberty. By sharing stories of their own experiences such as “I remember when my voice started breaking…” or “The first time I noticed a hair on my chin…” they are leveling the playing field and opening the floor for future discussion.
8) Celebrate it. In many cultures around the world first periods are celebrated. In Sri Lankan culture a menarche party is held, friends and family gather to eat and drink together in celebration of a girl’s coming-of-age. The Bengal women from Ivory Coast, celebrate a girl’s first period by showering her in gifts and treating her like a princess for the day. The Navajo culture acknowledges a girl’s first period by eating cake, singing and dancing in their finest clothes. Many Westerners frown upon this-Why you would draw attention to something so private? But period parties are becoming more and more prevalent as our society opts to remove the shame and secrecy that surrounds menstruation.
Although a period party is not for all of us, a small celebration to congratulate your daughter on becoming a woman is special, memorable and will give her comfort in your unwavering love for her even though she is becoming a woman. Involving her dad or a father figure in the occasion confirms that she is loved and that her period does not change that. When my daughter had her first period my husband and I took her out for dinner. We didn’t invite her younger siblings along and spent the evening showering her in our undivided attention. She was allowed to dress up and we treated her like an adult to celebrate this new journey she was on.
I hope these simple tips will make the “period conversation” a little easier to manage. If you have any questions or suggestions I look forward to hearing from you. May we be united in our shared womanhood and may our daughters find comfort in one another through this new development in their lives.