First period: from mother to daughter
Ideally, all young women should have a positive first-period experience. And this is only possible if they are totally informed about menstruation. However a big talk might be too much for a confused pre-teen, so you can always opt for small talks here and there, making sure she listens and absorbs the information.
1. Start talking about it early
Although the average girl experiences their first period between the ages of 12 and 15, it can happen as early as 8 or 9 years, or as late as 18. So, it is best to start talking about periods early on, in a casual and relaxed way. Putting too much importance on periods or creating a lot of expectation about the first period might scare your daughter. The best approach is telling her that periods are perfectly healthy, normal and expected.
2. Explain why and how it happens
Normally, a “just because” answer does not satisfy a teenage mind. And we see why. When your daughter has her first period, or even before, explain to her why it happens, what is happening inside her uterus, and the periodicity it will have. Don’t be afraid to touch the subject of fertility and how her first period means that she is capable of growing a baby in her uterus.
3. Call things by their names
Did you know there are more than 5000 nicknames and slang words to mean menstruation? Some of them are funny like the Auntie Flo, but some others are horrible, like the Red Curse. And the same happens for some female body parts. Using nicknames for vagina, uterus, vulva, menstruation and so on perpetuates a taboo around periods and female anatomy. No one wants that. Teach your daughter from even before her first period that her menstruation and her body have proper names and that she doesn’t need to use any others than the real ones.
4. No place for shame
Like using the right words for period and menstruation, it is important you make your daughter understand that there is no shame around having a period and being on her period. Her period is not “gross”, it is not “disgusting”, it is not “dirty”, and it is not unhygienic – unfortunately, these are all things that she might hear from classmates, so best to stay ahead. It is also important that you make her understand that, while periods are private, they are not to be “hid” or made you feel ashamed about.
5. Explain what periods (might) entail
Although not all women suffer from Pre-Menstrual Syndrome, there is a possibility your daughter might have some symptoms. It’s best to let her know that she might feel abdominal pain or headaches, mood swings, sore breasts, acne spurts, bloating, or others, but these should not be cause for alarm. Also, although some of these symptoms are not pleasant, try not to give a bad connotation to periods – women live with periods for decades and it is just a normal part of being a woman.
6. Help her choose the right menstrual products
Your daughter’s menstrual products are her choice, of course, but a little guidance is still needed. Some girls might not feel comfortable using tampons during their first periods – but they should know that there is absolutely no problem if they decide to do it. At the same time, although pads are very easy to understand and wear, at a confusing time like the first period, it might seem like a jigsaw. So be sure to explain in detail how to use the different menstrual products and when to change them.
She might need some help figuring out how heavy her flow is, so provide her not only with different options but also different sizes.
7. Share your own experiences
Every first period is different, as is every cycle, and every woman for that matter, however, your daughter might feel more comfortable, more comforted, and more supported if you share your own first period experience with her. Encourage her to talk and to open up with her own questions about her first period and all the changes in her body. Give your daughter the space and the trust for you to be the “go-to” person when she has any question about her body.
8. Dads and brothers in the loop
It might be easier for a mother to talk to a daughter about periods, and it might be easier for the teen to receive this information from her mother because of the shared experience of being a woman. However, fathers and brothers should not be kept out of the conversation – quite the contrary. Boys should be taught about menstruation and how it is one of the most natural processes in the world, leaving no room for any misconceptions about menstruation and menstruating girls. Fathers should give the daughters the space to talk about their period, whether the first period or all the others, without any embarrassment or awkwardness.
9. No stupid questions
Lastly, do not make your daughter feel like there are good and bad questions about her first period. She will probably be wondering if it’ll hurt, if she can die from losing blood, if people can see it or even smell it on her, if wearing a tampon will “make her lose her virginity”, if she will still be able to do sports, or any other doubt that can grow on a teenager’s mind. At the same time, keep an eye and an ear on possible myths and misconceptions your daughter might have heard about her first period or menstruation in general, and be sure to explain that they are not true and born out of ignorance.
If you feel like you are not capable of talking to your daughter about her first period and menstrual cycle, please look for other resources and direct her to them.
A first period box by Clementine
If your daughter is close to having her first period, maybe it is time to keep a period box around – like a fun present to give her, to make her feel ready and independent. A box with some day pads, night pads, panty liners, and even tampons can go a great deal in giving her some self-confidence and tranquillity about her first period.
If you feel the time is really coming, it might be good to tell her to keep a pad in her backpack, just in case. So that if she is alone or at school when it happens, she will know exactly what to do.