Not A Girl, Not Yet A Woman – Girls’ First Period
It’s one thing to bluff about windshield wiper cleaners and tampons to a 6-year old girl who hasn’t had her first period yet. But it is completely another to explain the red-letter day when she finally hits puberty. That hour may come in next to no time.
Most girls have their first period at around 12 years old but some have it much earlier. Leading to that, your little girl may observe other bodily changes.
Research of late has indicated that most girls develop breast buds as early as three years before their first menstruation. Underarm and pubic hair often starts to grow around six months prior. Either way, they should tip you off to your daughter’s first period.
Psychologists suggest that a parent take a daughter’s first period to mean starting a years-long series of talks about growth and development, physical and mental changes included.
Tips for Talking to a Girl About Her First Period
1. Talk about periods at an early age, in age-appropriate terms.
Contextualize menstruation in terms of natural functions to make it more understandable for young children. You can tell your young girl, “Know what? Someday your body will grow and look like Mum’s. You’d have breasts too, as well as hair in some parts of your body. For you to be a grown-up woman, your body will change.”
2. Be more specific with age.
Elaborate about menstruation when she gets older. Tell her how it will be like. Gradually orient her about sex and pregnancy.
3. If she asks, answer simply and factually, again in appropriate terms.
You shouldn’t feel forced to go into extensive details due to nervousness. For example, if your daughter in second grade happens upon your tampons, you may tell her something along the lines of, “Mum uses them when she gets her period every month.” Save yourself the 60-minute long seminar on menstrual cycle and ovulation until later.
4. Don’t immediately assume you know what your daughter’s asking.
Comprehend your daughter’s questions well. This means finding out what she knows about her question. For example, if she heard another girl discuss her first menstruation and asks you about it, answer with a question first: “What do you know about it?” Chances are, she may have heard distorted facts. This is a great opportunity for you to equip her with factual info as well as buy time for you to construct a targeted response.
5. Use your experience as a launchpad for a talk.
While it’s okay to go and ask your girl, “do you have any questions,” often she may respond with a “no.” There is a more casual route to a good discussion: your experience. Say something like, “When I was your age, I was just concerned about having my first period. I was worried it would be painful. Do you worry the same?”
6. Just say “I don’t know.”
It seems counterintuitive but responding so is perfectly okay. At times, parents have to field questions they are not ready to respond to. Example: your six-year old suddenly asked, “Who was on top the night I was conceived?” A tolerable answer could be, “Good question. I’ll get back to you after I think about it.” Make good on your promise to return to her; don’t feign forgetfulness.
7. Simply giving a video or book to your girl won’t do.
Make no mistake: A book or video can be an effective launch-pad for conversation regarding menstruation. Yet do not just simplistically give one to your girl in the hope that you shorten your end of the talk. Sit down and guide her through it, then talk about it thereafter.
What A Girl Wants…To Know About Her First Period?
With puberty approaching, a girl may await the end of childhood and start of a new age with high anticipation. There shall be mixed feelings about menstruation and other pubic changes however, more often than not. The most likely questions spinning in her mind:
1. Will I be caught with my first period at school?
This is a near-universal fear among girls. It is imperative then to plan beforehand with your daughter on such things as what to carry in her bag or purse; securing access to the school clinic; and such. Your daughter may even consider fitting toilet paper in her underpants. Reassure her that blood would not just gush forth.
2. What is this whitish thing in my underpants? I don’t have my period yet.
This may be vaginal discharge, which is just the body’s normal way of cleaning the vagina. Put to rest their worries that they have contracted STI or injured themselves during masturbation.
3. How do I use tampons?
Sanitary pads are one thing, tampons quite another. Recommend that your daughter wait some time until she has grown inured to menstruation before adopting tampons. For now, pads are the way to go, especially today when they are less bulky and more activity-friendly. When she is finally ready to use one, recommend a smaller size for her to reckon with what she is comfortable. Remind her to change tampons every 4-8 hours and sanitize her hands prior to and after insertion.
4. Am I normal?
When a girl menstruates too early or too late, she is bound to suspect that somehow her body is not working the way it is supposed to. This is exacerbated by mood swings brought about by adolescence. Reassure your girl that eventually she would have her turn or other girls would eventually have theirs.
Inform your girl too that irregular menstruation is normal for the first year. She may not have a period for every month of the year. Let her know about symptoms attendant on menstruation, e.g. mood swings, cramps, water retention, weight fluctuation, and headaches.