Moms and dads across the world can thank the internet for explaining the facts of life to children long before they need to know. Its a good thing to; because today’s young girls are getting their periods at younger ages than ever before. The Academy of Pediatrics reports staggering numbers of girls at age 8, experiencing menstrual cycles. Luckily, the signs of a first period are not hard to recognize. If you have a daughter in the house and notice changes in the amount of hair they have under their arms or other bodily changes that say puberty is around the ‘corner’ take notice and start talking.
Dealing with your daughter’s first period can be difficult for you because it comes with the realization that your little girl is in fact growing up. Of course you knew it would happen, but not this quickly. Their menstrual cycle represents womanhood and should be just one reminder that privacy, modesty and moodiness are on the horizon.
You might be surprised to know just how many moms DON’T discuss this period thing with their daughters. There is no excuse for that and you should have the discussion as soon as possible. The easiest way to breach the subject is to talk about your own period with them and react to it as if it is no big deal. You don’t have to delve into the birds and bees talk simply because you are discussing a period. Instead, just talk about it as if it is a given (which it is) of being female. Talk about how it feels, what you need to do to take care of business in that department and try to lessen the anxiety for your daughter. The last thing you want is for your daughter to get her first period at school and think she is bleeding to death or sick; and for many girls this is exactly what happens. Then a perfect stranger, a teacher or a school nurse has to do the explaining. Talk talk talk talk! Even if your daughter doesn’t want to hear it she is listening.
Whether you believe it or not, your daughter has friends or friends of friends who have their period already and they probably know more than you think. Once you begin to see the tissue in their breast area start to look ‘pudgy’ you have on average of 6 months to prepare for your daughters first period. Buy her supplies to keep in her book bag and make sure they are in a discreet place so she can grab them should she need them. Tell your daughter that you really need to know when she has her first period as well. According to a survey as many as half of teenage girls do not tell their mom or dad that they are menstruating. If you do their laundry, make sure you check for that to be sure. Also discuss with them the options for cramping and discomfort that they may have so they can be sure to understand that it is part of monthly cycle. Don’t just buy the ‘blooming into womanhood’ book and expect them to read it. At this point in your daughter’s life she needs you to pull out the friend hat!
The hardest part about dealing with your daughter’s first period may be for you. Your daughter may be moody and emotional as she steps from the door of childhood into one of adulthood. Few girls are ready for that. It is normal for them to feel an instant disconnect from their dad and many girls feel embarrassed if dad knows. This is such an emotional time for girls and while part of them understands the process and that it is inevitable; a whole other part may be in denial. Remind them how much you love them and make sure that the manly figure in their life does the same. Whether he mentions the monthly visitor or not is something totally personal and relevant to the relationship he has with your daughter. Allow for a few months of confusion. Girls can be filled with resent, shame, embarrassment and confusion at this point in their lives. Lessening the expectations and realizing that this event can be as monumental as learning to walk or read is important. Of course you have to acknowledge all of this silently by treating them with more tender loving care.
The other thing to remember is that you can’t make a big deal. Don’t drag her to the drugstore and force her to stand in the feminine product aisle while you purchase pads for her. And definitely don’t even introduce the whole tampon thing just yet. Many parents wonder if the start of a period warrants a visit to the doctor and the answer is not really. Unless you notice problems, clotting, excessive bleeding or immense pain you still have a few years before walking over (or off) that bridge! She is still just a little girl and this amazing feat of womanhood doesn’t mean that suddenly she is all grown up. Wipe away your own tears of anxiety and just be her mom and dad for a little while longer.
If you are dealing with your daughter’s first period, there is a good chance that the reality is you are dealing with much more than just that. This period in their and your life can bring attention to the aging process, can make you feel like time is running too fast and give you an opportunity to reflect on what has been, what is and what is to come. The same is true for your daughter. Just yesterday she was riding her tricycle, eating popsicles and today she is trying on bras and getting her period. Such is life. The fact remains that whether your little girl is 4 or 14, she needs you whether she will admit it or not. She needs mom and dad to treat her like their child and not jump to rash conclusions that marriage and childbirth are right around the corner (which they are). The point is, depending on your daughter’s age treat the first period with care and honesty. The amount of honesty depends on your daughter’s age. Menstruation isn’t a medical condition or a sickness, it is just simply part of being a girl and the link between it and sex doesn’t have to be made early on. Beyond that, use this time to take a few steps back so you can clearly and completely enjoy the time you do have with your little girl.