Remember waiting for your first period? Feeling excited, confused, and maybe even a little anxious? Hopefully, someone helped you feel secure in your changing body. Now, you have a daughter who’s about to become a woman – and it’s time to do the same for her! Providing her with information and helping her feel comfortable with her body is good for her life-long health and self-esteem. And having the “period talk” doesn’t need to be stressful.
With a little preparation, you can have a relaxed, productive talk about menstruation and help her feel ready for what’s to come.
Start small and early
The best way to approach menstruation discussions is to plan on having a few small talks rather than one big one. If possible, start discussing menstruation and body changes in general terms when she’s young so she gets used to the idea of “growing up”.
You can then talk about it in more detail as she gets older. This helps to create a sense of openness and shows her that periods and changing bodies are natural and normal.
Cover all the bases
During your discussions, it’s good to share your own experiences so she knows that she’s not alone. Make sure you address four particular areas:
- The science behind menstruation: Briefly discuss the female anatomy and what happens when a woman menstruates so she understands what’s happening. Be sure you know your stuff and that you use the correct terms. Euphemisms only teach her that the real words are inappropriate, and imply that we shouldn’t be talking about feminine health –when in fact it’s the opposite!
- How she’ll feel throughout her cycle: We’re not just talking about pre-menstrual syndrome (PMS). Her menstrual cycle will influence how she feels physically and emotionally all throughout the month, so there are some “symptoms” to look out for. Make sure that she knows she can always talk to you and that there are ways to manage discomfort or issues with her cycle. She also should learn to always be open with her doctor about her health – like you, doctors are there to help.
- Menstrual hygiene: It’s very important for her to maintain good hygiene during menstruation to prevent infection and stay healthy.
- Sexual health: She (and you!) might not be quite ready for the full “birds and the bees” conversation yet, but menstrual health is closely tied to sexual health, so get ready to field some early questions. Only you can gauge how much detail to get into, but being proactive can ensure she feels comfortable talking about sex with you later.
Here are some tips for getting a dialogue going:
- At first, although she might be curious, she may also feel awkward and reluctant to talk about periods. Be respectful of the fact that this is all new and perhaps a little scary, so let her engage with you in her own time.
- Find a few good resources that you can use to introduce the subject, but don’t just give her a book or a movie and think that it will answer all of her questions. Watch or read them together, then talk about them after.
- Once she feels comfortable, be prepared for her to ask questions – lots of questions. There are many menstruation myths out there, so expect to field some potentially strange ones too. If you’re not sure of an answer, it’s ok to say “I don’t know”–just make sure you get back to her later with an answer. You could also look up the answer together to show her how to find reliable information.
Above all, be positive and emphasize that what is happening is completely normal and that every young woman experiences menstruation differently. Even if she gets her period earlier or later than her friends, or if she has different symptoms, she is completely normal.
Buy her what she’ll need
Period protection is a very personal choice, so give her a good rundown of her options and make sure she knows she’s not stuck with her first choice forever. It might be best to start her out with pads, but show her the other options for the future. If she expresses an interest in tampons or menstrual cups, be sure she makes an informed choice between the two.
Cups are completely safe for teens to use and are super healthy choice too! Unlike tampons, there’s no dryness, irritation or gross chemicals – with the added bonus of providing up to 8 hours of protection. As women learn more about the benefits of menstrual cups, they’re becoming the go-to product for a lot of women.
If she (or you) has any questions about cups, have a quick chat with a gynecologist. And if she chooses a cup, just be sure she gets the right cup for her: start with a small, flexible cup made of 100% medical-grade silicone to ensure she gets the best in comfort and hygiene.
And one more thing!
We’re all familiar with the nagging anxiety bout our periods popping up unexpectedly, so make her life a little easier with an emergency period kit for school. Most kits include the period protection of choice, spare underwear, wet wipes and a little piece of chocolate – just for a little pick-me-up.
Having open and honest discussions with your daughter about the transition to womanhood can not only be a great way to bring you closer, but they can also help her see these changes as a joyous thing. Getting ready for your first period can be an anxious time, but with the right preparation and support she’ll see it as a normal, natural thing.
Help her feel positive about menstruation, and she’ll feel more confident about all the changes to come.