As any mother with a teenage daughter knows, discussing ‘the period’ with your daughter for the first time is a delicate process--one that needs to be handled with great caution. The issue of the menstrual cycle is tricky enough by itself, and the supercharged emotions of girls in this age group can be an added complication. A parent, therefore, needs to be prepared before approaching this task. Reading articles, parenting blogs and books on how to go through with ‘the talk’ can be a good start. Remember, your daughter is more scared and nervous than you are about the changes her body is experiencing.
Here are a few tips to help ease the awkwardness, both for her and for you:
Preparing for Your Daughter’s First Period:
Read up and Stock up: Read up on how to talk to daughters about their first period. There are a number of parenting blogs with first-hand experience accounts. Discuss it with other people to pick up pointers for your ‘talk’. Once you are mentally ready, survey the markets for period-related supplies for first timers. A list of available options can also be found on some of the blogs and articles.
Show and Tell: Help her understand how to use the supplies. Show her by sticking the pad onto her underwear. Make a small bag of the supplies, along with an extra underwear. Ask her to discuss extra supplies with the school nurse, just in case she needs them at some point in time. If she is uncomfortable doing it, go with her and support her through it. A young girl at this stage is bound to be embarrassed, nervous, and overwhelmed. Make her understand that it is a normal bodily function and ease her discomfort by sharing your own experiences. Don’t forget to prepare her for emergencies. Convey to her that her first period can arrive without warning and her clothing might get stained. Tell her that in such a situation she could wrap a jacket around her waist; better yet, always carry an extra pair of pants and underwear!
Enlist the Men’s Support: Men in the family can sometimes be clueless about such things. Make it a point to talk to the father, brothers and any other family member close to her. If the brothers are younger, this might be an ideal time to talk to them about privacy and personal space, and the changes their sister is experiencing. If they are older brothers you could go into greater detail, so that they know how to help out if their sister is in a sticky situation. They need to be mature enough, to procure her supplies if she requests them to.
D-Day: Arrival Of The First Period:
Use Appropriate Words: When you are talking to your daughter about her first period, make sure you use appropriate words, and not take refuge in euphemisms, as these might leave her confused. Yes, words like ‘bleed’ and ‘blood spots’ may sound overwhelming and uncomfortable, but they need to be used. Trust me, she will be more uncomfortable than you are! Make her feel comfortable by making it sound like it is a casual, no fuss topic. Prepare her with as much knowledge as possible. Tell her that her period might not be regular for the first few months; it might stop in the middle and come back after a few days, or may not come for a couple of months. She also needs to be aware of and mentally prepared for embarrassing episodes such as stained clothing, sheets, sofas, etc., so that she does not panic and is confident enough to seek help when it happens.
Keep it Real: This is the time your daughter’s hormones are going crazy. She will be highly emotional and excitable. It is important to give her a realistic view of what she is undergoing. You need to make her understand that this is a normal bodily function, regularly experienced by half of the world’s population, and an essential part of becoming an adult woman. However, don’t omit the downside-- the cramps, excessive bleeding, bloating and pimples, and of course, PMS. Unless you prepare her and help her deal with these, the experience might depress her self-esteem. Make sure you let her know this is something that improves over time! Telling her about it from a medical standpoint first might be a good idea, to be followed up by sharing your personal experiences. This would help to lessen her confusion and sense of isolation.
Monitoring the Body Clock: Help your daughter learn to predict her period. Until her menstrual cycle settles down into its natural rhythm, it will be difficult to predict the date of her periods. Guide her about the body changes that signal the onset of menstruation, such as greasy hair, pimples, bloating and tenderness, and intensified emotions. Make her see the need to be always prepared.
The Role of Reassurance: At this stage of life a girl needs constant reassurance.Just because this is a major step in womanhood does not mean she is not a kid anymore!Tell her she can still do whatever she likes. There are no restrictions. She does not need to be cooped up in the house because of her period. Let her go play, ride a bike, go to the swings--let her grow up at her own pace!