The first talk with your daughter about periods is an important one. It can leave an everlasting imprint on her. Therefore, it’s important as parents and guardians to be adequately prepared for the opportunity whenever it presents itself.
The period talk unfolds differently in every family and often quite out of the blue. In fact, we believe it is a good idea to be proactive about having the conversation with her. Not because she’s going to find out anyway, but because it’s important that she learns about it the right way and from the right people.
The right time
Any time after your daughter turns seven is often the recommended age to bring up the topic. However, she may have questions even before she turns seven. Either way, there is a simple rule of thumb about timing. Let her take the lead. If and when she brings it up, don’t brush it aside. Use that chance to send some facts home.
If she’s under seven years, perhaps you could respond to her questions with just basic information and encourage her to ask more questions whenever she has any. If your daughter is above the age of seven it’s perhaps time for you to give her a more detailed download.
The right timing can depend on the individual child, with some young girls more than happy to discuss such topics, and others being more shy about it. Don’t pressure her, but ensure she knows you are available and can be trusted to answer her questions truthfully and lovingly.
The right pace
At this stage, the conversation should be aimed at preparing her for her first period, especially if it occurs when you’re not around. You needn’t do this in one sitting. At seven you have the luxury of giving her time to absorb the information gradually. Let her come back with more questions. If you respect her pace you can avoid overwhelming her.
The right facts
Tell her the biology behind menstruation end to end – how it happens and what function it’s supposed to serve in a female body. She needs to know that her period is not a disease or a monthly illness. Be honest with your daughter about what it is like having a period. Periods can sometimes be painful, cause discomfort, create mood swings, cause cravings, etc. It’s quite normal for girls to feel deeply anxious about this new phase.
Some of the typical concerns are that cramps are here to stay, that period blood smells bad, or that they have to give up swimming during the period. Our role is to help them be prepared for how their period may affect them individually and keep the conversation open to help them learn to manage it effectively.
Young girls are also susceptible to a number of bewildering myths around the topic. Will the tampon get lost inside? Will hot showers increase the flow? Will pickles get contaminated if I touch them during a period? As long as you keep the dialogue active with her, you’ll have the chance to prove them false.
The right attitude
Debunk the taboo around periods from the word go. If you have boys or men in the family, by all means, include them in the discussion around periods. Daughters should feel free to approach their fathers with questions about periods. Invite the father on board with the idea before you initiate period talk with her. Due to social conditioning, the idea may feel odd in the beginning, but once the barrier is broken it is liberating for everyone. Period dignity at home is at the foundation of a mindset change in society.
The right products
Pads are a good option to start with due to ease of use. You can even consider period underwear because it’s less bulky. Once she’s comfortable with the routine and with her body, you can help her move to products like teen menstrual cups. These are smaller than standard cups and are designed to be leak-proof, smell-proof, mess-free, and environmentally sustainable.
The right prep
The first period may take your daughter by surprise. If you’ve done your job of preparing her well, she will know not to panic. Discuss an emergency plan in advance, like where to find supplies in the house. Make sure she has some pants/pads, spare undies etc. kept in her school bag in case her period begins at school. Tell her it’s ok to speak with other women (family friends, aunts etc.). This is especially important in the event her period starts at a friend’s house, or if she is looking for a bin to dispose of liners and pads while at someone else’s house.
Educate her about the possibility of leaks and how to avoid them, how often to change the product she is using, and the importance of hygiene during her period. Teach her how to keep track of her periods so she can be prepared for the next one.
Is your daughter prepared?
If you’re not sure of the facts around periods, or if you’re concerned about your daughters menstrual development, seek help from a family doctor.
The better prepared your daughter is, the fewer mishaps she’ll have and the less anxiety she will likely feel as she enters this new stage of life. A good foundation and proper education will also help ensure she is well protected from the misinformation around this topic. Consider this first conversation as a golden opportunity to make sure your girl has the right attitude towards her periods and that she enters womanhood with pride and dignity.