I’m not sure who dreads “the period” talk more – daughters or their parents. When it’s finally time to sit down with your daughter and talk about puberty and menstruation, everyone may feel a little awkward at first. However, if you keep a few things in mind, you can empower her to have everything she needs to get through this major transition in her life.
Use these 5 tips when communicating the basics to get her through her first cycle:
1. Research and prepare
Puberty happens over the course of a few years, so it’s wise to begin the conversation with your daughter well before she gets her first period. This will help alleviate any embarrassment she may feel when the time comes. If you start the conversation early enough, she’ll understand what’s happening and be prepared. Then, you can build on that understanding over time to make sure she feels confident entering puberty and her post-puberty years.
Also, be ready to answer any questions she may have. While you can’t anticipate every single question she’ll ask about her changing body, the best tampons to use and reproduction, you can do a bit of initial research on your own to be informed. The more you refresh your own knowledge of the menstrual cycle, the more easily you’ll be able to navigate the conversation.
2. Let her know she’s not alone
Mothers can certainly relate to getting your first period and all of the scary, confusing and isolating feelings that come along with it. Chances are, your daughter will have friends that haven’t gotten theirs yet, so she’s likely feeling very vulnerable and “different” than her peers. As her mum, you can provide valuable insight and reassurance by making sure she knows that this is something every young woman goes through, including you.
If you’re a dad navigating this conversation, you have unique power to break the stigma surrounding men and menstruation. Stay engaged and don’t back away. Do some research together and she’ll feel less alone and you’ll help her see that there are plenty of people who have the same questions and feelings she has.
3. Utilise tools and resources
In the age or smartphones, laptops, tablets and unlimited data, there are infinite resources available to help you have “the period” talk with your child. Search for informative videos, blogs, research and even medical professionals online who can help fill in the gaps. These tools can not only teach you and your daughter about what to expect; they can also help determine if she’s experiencing symptoms of PMS or other related complications, which may save you a trip to the doctor.
Have the right products on hand as well. There are plenty of beginner pads and junior tampons available that make it easy for girls to find what works for them. If she sees the unlimited options, she’ll feel more comfortable knowing every woman’s cycle is different.
4. Explain the purpose of your period
I think every woman can relate to feeling frustrated and inconvenienced by her period from time to time. Your daughter will likely feel it, too, especially as she’s just getting started. However, there’s obviously much more going on with your daughter’s body than a monthly disruption to her routine. Sometimes, it can help to explain why women have periods at all – ultimately, women have periods so they can have babies and produce new life.
Explaining the big picture of menstruation can sometimes help relieve some angst and frustration surrounding her first cycle.
5. Be patient
Finally, be patient and loving with your child as she learns how to navigate this transition. She probably will not know how to handle or even identify all of the changes she’s going through – hormonal, physical and emotional.
Be patient with yourself and your partner as well. You’re about to be the parent of a teenager, and that’s intimidating! It’s not uncommon to be a little clumsy at first during conversation. Just remember that ultimately, you are your daughter’s biggest advocate and she will rely on you to help get her through this.
Helping our kids through the many changes they’ll go through during their life is both difficult and rewarding. It’s one of the greatest joys and challenges we face as parents. Remember, as a mum or dad, you are the go-to cheerleader, resource and friend for your kids, which is a pretty special place to be.
Story Jenny Hart