Information is power when it comes to your body. As a mother, it is important that you are very open to talking about your daughter’s body with her, especially before she actually hits puberty. That includes, most significantly, having a frank conversation with her about periods.
Talking to your daughter about periods will help her be prepared to navigate the changes she will experience as part of growing up. Further, you must be there to provide the emotional support your daughter needs to deal with any anxieties, mood swings, etc.
You can be a role model for your daughter by being open about periods, while also helping to destigmatize it. If you’re worried about how to go about it, this blog has some tips to help you along, including when and what all you must tell your tween.
Explain what a period is
You will need to tell your daughter what a period is. This is so that both of you can identify the signs your daughter is about to start her period.
Periods are an integral part of a woman’s reproductive cycle, as part of which she menstruates or bleeds from her vagina every 28 days or so, for a few days. Blood, tissue, and the unfertilized egg from the uterus are released during a period. Periods can be very painful, and the intensity of discomfort can vary from individual to individual.
On average, you’ll see the first signs of an imminent period at the age of 12. However, it can start as early as 8 or as late as 15-16 years of age.
Why is it important to prepare your daughter for her first period?
Preparing your daughter for her first period is important to help her become comfortable with this massive change that awaits her and also to avoid feelings of panic or anxiety when it actually starts. Plus, it always helps to know what to do and what to expect. If your daughter is prepared, she’ll also know there is no cause for embarrassment. She’ll find it easier to ask you for help if you talk to her with a non-judgmental and open attitude.
When to start preparing her?
You must prepare your daughter for her first period when you start observing the first signs of puberty in her. In fact, it’s best to start as early as possible.
Your daughter will start understanding the basics of puberty and periods around the age of 6 or 7. It’s a good idea to begin the conversation around the same time, so she understands the developmental changes she will soon undergo, such as breast development, pubic hair growth, etc.
6 tips for preparing your daughter for her first period
To answer the question, ‘how to prepare my daughter for her first period’, here are 6 tips to make the conversation easier:
1 – Treat periods like a developmental milestone
You must treat the first period as a developmental milestone. It’s best to openly communicate with your daughter without feeling embarrassed or uneasy about periods yourself. For this, it helps to read up on the scientific facts so you can give her factually accurate information.
2 – Answer her questions honestly
After you have updated yourself on information about menstruation, answer all your daughter’s questions honestly. Remember that no question is silly or off-limits. You must seek to either answer all her questions knowledgeably yourself, or seek your doctor’s guidance where you must, so that she doesn’t have to rely on inaccurate information online or from her friends.
3 – Reassure your daughter regarding the pains
When you explain a period to your daughter, reassure her that the pain is normally manageable and tolerable. Advise her to use hot water bottles or cold compresses to ease cramping, while assuring her that the pain will eventually disappear. If it is unmanageable, doctors can help.
4 – Tell her about Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS)
You must talk to your daughter about Premenstrual Syndrome or PMS. According to NCBI, more than 75% of women experience PMS. It is caused by an imbalance of the estrogen and progesterone hormones. PMS can cause headaches, restlessness, insomnia, fatigue, tender breasts, pimples, back pain, severe mood swings, bloating, etc.
You need to tell your daughter about PMS and that she may or may not experience all, some, or any of these symptoms, but that they are normal. Talk to her about mood swings and remind her that she is not alone in feeling them. Of course, if any symptoms are extreme or become unmanageable, seek help.
5 – Create a period kit and teach her how to track her periods
Help your daughter create a portable period kit containing a change of panties, panty liners, pads and other menstrual aids. This period kit will help your daughter feel secure if she gets her first period away from home.
Tell your daughter that if her panties get soiled with light or heavy bleeding the first time, there’s no reason to panic. She can merely use the panties in her kit. Ensure that your daughter always carries her period kit with her so that she is never caught unawares. Plus, the kit will also quell your worries about it. Teach her how to track her period as it will help her be prepared every time.
Her first period might come any time between ages 8-16. After that, it will come every 21-28 days. She may also track her cycle using a calendar or an app.
6 – Get the menfolk and family involved
Puberty is something that every individual experiences. Although men don’t have menstrual cycles, it’s important to include them in the conversation around them and is a crucial part of preparing for your daughter’s first period.
Talking about periods with the men at home will help destigmatize them and provide your daughter with a comfortable environment to discuss her pains, anxieties, and worries with anyone she wants, at home.
She’ll find it easier to express her need to shop for pads or tampons, even around her dad or brother.
What should you tell your daughter?
While preparing your daughter for her first period, you must follow the tips given above. In addition to that, here are some things you must ensure she knows:
- The difference between pads, tampons and menstrual cups, and how to use them.
- How to calculate her menstrual cycle and recognise her own patterns.
- PMS and menopause.
- How normal periods are and why there’s nothing to feel ashamed about.
Ensure you equip your daughter with as much information as possible to empower her. If you don’t know something she wants to know, consult a doctor or read through medical sites for reliable information.
In the process, you will also learn to not feel stressed thinking, ‘oh, my daughter got her first period’.
Some more details about menstrual aids (for your benefit and your daughter’s)
You need to tell your daughter about the various kinds of menstrual aids available so she can choose what works for her. Here are the aids that are most commonly used by women for managing menstrual flow. Note that this is a personal decision based on one’s preferences and individual requirements. What is comfortable for you may not be comfortable for your daughter.
Here are the most popular choices you can tell your daughter about:
- Sanitary Pads: These are disposable pads which can be stuck to the lining of the underwear to absorb period blood. They come in various sizes and thicknesses. Biodegradable pads are also available now, which are better for the environment. Tell your daughter how to wear a pad properly to avoid staining and ensure she knows that the pad must be changed every 4-6 hours. Otherwise, there’s a high risk of infection.
- Reusable Pads: These are especially tailored cloth sanitary pads that are eco-friendly and are an improvement on the traditional Indian practice of using cloth to absorb menstrual blood. However, you must ensure that she knows how to wash the pad properly and when to change it. Each pad can be used up to 4-8 hours, depending on flow.
- Tampons: These are small plugs of cotton shaped like cylinders with a cord at one end for easy removal. Teach your daughter how to insert the tampon properly into her vagina using the applicator that comes with it, or her fingers. Tampons need to be changed at least every 8 hours and must not be kept in for longer.
- Menstrual Cups: These are newer than other aids but have quickly become a popular choice due to their obvious advantages. These are reusable cups made of body-safe rubber or silicone, which can be inserted into the vagina. Bell-shaped with or without stems for easy removal, menstrual cups not only hold more blood for longer but can be used safely for up to 12-14 hours. When inserting a menstrual cup, you may grease the rim of the cup with water-based lubricant for easy insertion, fold and insert it up your vagina until it unfolds on its own to create an airtight seal that prevents leakage. There are many online resources available to learn more about menstrual cups.
Encourage her to experiment and choose only that menstrual aid which suits her needs the best.
Talking to your daughter about her first period is crucial. It also helps to strengthen the mother-daughter bond. By normalising period-talk among women, you can help empower others around you to be more open and transform society’s perception of menstruation.
If your daughter is prepared, she will be able to navigate the various changes she will undergo during puberty. You must also teach her how to buy and use pads, menstrual cups, reusable pads and tampons well before her first period actually comes.
Destigmatizing periods in your own home is key so your daughter understands how normal they are. You must also reassure her that she is not alone and answer all her questions empathetically and candidly. Sharing your own experiences and listening to your daughter’s experiences also helps.