Menstruation typically begins at about age 12, but periods are possible as early as age 8. That’s why it’s important to discuss this topic early. Menstruation, however, can be an awkward subject to explain. So what’s the best way to prepare your child?
Many women probably remember when and where they got their first period. A lot of us probably also wish we’d been a little more prepared.
If your daughter is approaching their first period, how can you help them be ready without embarrassing them — and yourself? Make an action plan so you’re both ready.
Talk early and often
The earlier you begin talking to your child about the changes to expect during puberty, the better. Don’t plan a single tell-all discussion. Instead, plan on a series of conversations. If your child asks questions about menstruation, answer them openly and honestly. If your child isn’t asking questions, it’s up to you to start talking about menstruation.
Your child needs to know the facts about the menstrual cycle and all the changes that puberty brings. Friends might provide inaccurate information. Talking to your child can help eliminate unfounded fears or anxiety, as well as positively influence your child’s body image. Also, the conversations you have with your child about menstruation can lay the groundwork for future talks about dating and sexuality.
Your daughter is probably wondering what her period will feel like, how long it will last, and how she can take care of herself each month.
You can start with the basics: Explain that their first few periods will most likely be light, and they might not be regular in the beginning. The blood might be red, brown, or even blackish, and they should change their pad every 4 to 6 hours.
Dads, if this topic is outside your comfort zone, ask an older daughter or female relative to bring it up. Your daughter might be just as uncomfortable talking with you about their period as you are.
Make a period kit
Many girls fear they’ll get their first period at school or when they’re away from home. To help your daughter feel ready, buy a small zippered pouch and stock it with a couple of teen-size sanitary pads and a clean pair of underwear. Tell your daughter to keep the pouch with them at all times, and keep one with you, too, just in case.
Remind your child not to worry about when friends begin to menstruate — or if their periods seem different. Explain that menstruation, including cycle length and flow, varies from person to person and sometimes month to month.
It’s also common for teens to have irregular periods. It might take six years or more after your period starts for your cycle to become regular. The average menstrual cycle lasts 28 days — counting from the first day of one period to the first day of the next period. Although cycles in young teens can range from 21 to 45 days, longer cycles are more common for the first few years after menstruation begins.
Teach your child how to track periods on a calendar or by using a smartphone app. Eventually your child might be able to predict when periods will begin. Keeping track of periods can also help your child and your child’s doctor identify any possible menstrual disorders or other health problems.
Schedule a medical checkup if your child:
- Hasn’t started menstruating by age 15 or within three years of the start of breast growth — or breasts haven’t started to grow by age 13
- Goes three months without a period after beginning menstruation or suspects pregnancy
- Has periods that occur more frequently than every 21 days or less frequently than every 45 days
- Has periods that become irregular after having been regular
- Has periods that last more than seven days
- Has severe pain during periods
- Is bleeding between periods
- Is bleeding more heavily than usual or using more than one pad or tampon every one to two hours
- Suddenly gets a fever and feels sick after using a tampon
The changes associated with puberty can be a little scary. Reassure your child that it’s normal to feel apprehensive about menstruating, but it’s nothing to be too worried about — and you’re there to answer any questions.