Your daughter's first menstrual period is a big milestone for both of you. Here are Mighty Mommy's tips to navigate this emotional time.
Seems like just yesterday your baby girl was learning to walk, saying her first words, heading off to school all by herself and now, in a the blink of an eye, she’s a teenager sporting a pubescent body and (gasp) and attitude!
This time in your daughter’s life brings a mixture of emotions—excitement, confusion, moodiness—and possibly a sense of awkwardness because of all the hormonal changes happening in her body.
Her first menstrual period might not be far behind. So here are a few tips to help both you and your daughter navigate through this amazing milestone in her life:
- Recognize the signs. The average age for girls to begin menstruating in America is 12-13, but some start as early as 8 or 9. Two signs that are most closely tied to a first period are when a girl needs a real bra and gets pubic and armpit hair. Once your daughter develops these secondary sex characteristics, she’s likely to start her period within 3-6 months.
- Empower your daughter with information. While it's good to provide girls with information about their bodies and periods from a young age, it's especially important to make sure she has current, correct information as her period nears. Look for books that deal with first periods (preview them yourself, as many are full of outdated information or may contain parts you are not comfortable with). One that I shared with my daughters was Growing Up: It's a Girl Thing, which is recommended for girls ages 8 and up and is very child friendly. New Moon Girls, an ad-free magazine for girls 8-14 that comes with a membership to a secure online community, is another good source of information for young girls, with female mentors on the site who can answer embarrassing questions. My daughters have always loved The Care & Keeping of You: The Body Book for Girls (American Girl Library).
- Share some girl talk. Talking about menstruating, pubic hair, and hormonal changes can be a somewhat embarrassing topic for your daughter, so proceed delicately. That said, it's important for her to hear from you on this subject. Ask if she has any questions. Share the story of your first period. (Mine arrived while I was staying at my 70-year-old grandmother’s house at Cape Cod. Neither of us was prepared, I can laugh now, but it was overwhelming back then.) Talk about the positive aspects of this big change and share tips that help you during that time of the month. Also talk about details of yours since hers may be similar, such as how long it lasts and whether you experience cramping, moodiness or other side effects.
- Shop for products in advance. Before your daughter's first period arrives, start to assemble a special box of menstrual products. Consider including several brands and types of disposable pads, (tampons are probably best left alone for the first few periods, but you can discuss the advantages of them so she’ll be in the know when the time is right.) You might also want to include other items that could make her period easier such as Midol, special tea that might soothe her if she gets bad cramps, and anything else that you know might be of comfort to her like her favorite candy or chocolate. By having this done in advance, your daughter can have the chance to look over the products in the privacy of her own bedroom and be prepared when her period starts.
- Present the period in a positive light. Your daughter will take her cues from you, so stay positive when talking about her periods. Don’t discuss it in terms of how it will ruin a portion of her month or drone on about how miserable it is. She’s growing and her body is doing exactly what it should be doing, so stay upbeat during the conversations about getting her first period and celebrate this life-changing milestone of her womanhood!