What Dad Needs To Know About His Daughter’s First Period
A dad and his daughter have a special bond: In their personal fairy tale, she is the princess, and he is the hero. And, as the daughter grows up, she experiences all the joys and struggles that come with getting older. Puberty comes before you know it, and that means the daughters first period, or menarche, is just around the corner.
When your daughter is close to having her first period, dad can continue to be the hero and help his little girl through what can be a difficult time. Russell Horton, DO, who specializes in pediatrics, and Adrienne Burke Miller, CNM, MSN, explain the basics to help dads understand their daughters first period.
When To See A Doctor
Schedule an appointment with a pediatrician or endocrinologist if your daughter:
- Has not gotten a period for 6 months. A doctor may try to rule out whether there are any medical issues responsible for the huge gap in periods.
- Suffers from excruciating pain or other symptoms, such as diarrhea and vomiting, during her periods. Hormonal treatments may be recommended
- Experiences extreme mood changes or depressionthat disrupt her daily life. A doctor may suggest visiting a mental health therapist to help your daughter learn coping strategies to deal with the problem.
Keeping The Conversation Going
The first conversation you have with your daughter about periods should be the first of many, says Kirstin, especially if she suffers with premenstrual syndrome or uncomfortable period pain. Its important your daughter can talk to you about any unusual symptoms. Very heavy bleeding and extreme pain can be signs of a medical condition like endometriosis and may be worth exploring with a GP.
The early stages are a walk in the park for some girls and excruciating and difficult for others, so staying involved and teaching them that yes, periods are normal but they can also have an impact on your life and need to be managed, is key, she says.
Dont forget to stay educated about modern menstrual products, too from leak-proof period underwear to innovative menstrual cups and smartphone apps that track your period patterns.
Rebecca adds that its important to teach your daughter about self-care. When she gets her period in those early days, celebrate rather than commiserate. Treat her to a cute hot water bottle, some chocolate and a feel-good movie on the couch with you.
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Resources To Help You With This Conversation
The menstrual cycle is a long and critical concept that cannot be necessarily understood in a single big chat. Knowing about the changes that their body is going through and how to be prepared for it is a huge concept to understand. Dont try to wait for the perfect moment to have this conversation. Your child may get overwhelmed trying to process the information, all at once. Instead, make sure to bring up these topics naturally from time to time to help them understand. Period normalisation is important so that children understand that it is a regular biological process of growing up
You can talk about your first period experience or start involving them in conversations about your menstrual cycle days. Take her along when you are out buying your sanitary napkins to show that it is nothing to be ashamed of. Teach them that buying sanitary pads is as normal as buying groceries and that it doesnt need to be done secretly.
Talk to your child about the changes that she is experiencing are all normal and a part of puberty. Discuss the possible symptoms of a menstrual cycle that she may face such as period pain- cramps and backache, pimples, sore breasts, mood swings and lethargy, etc. Explain how light exercises during the menstrual cycle days can help ease the pain, however, not being able to exercise during periods is okay as well.
The Right Time To Talk About Periods
Girls can get their periods as early as 8 years old, though thats atypical. Most girls will get their periods around age 12 and menstruation typically starts two years after breasts begin to develop. That said, its critical to have the period discussion with your daughter before puberty so that she knows how her body will change before shes confused or caught off guard.
KidsHealth says, By the time theyre 6 or 7 years old, most kids can understand the basics of periods. So, rather than saving period education for one big, sit-down moment, learn to capitalize on teachable moments. For example, when you see commercials about pads or tampons while watching television with your daughter, use that opportunity to ask if she knows what those items are. An organic moment like this is a less intimidating way to start the discussion than to say, We need to have a talk.
The younger your daughter is, the more open she is to ask questions about the human body. So, if you can satisfy her curiosity in an age-appropriate way, shell absorb whatever parts of your message shes ready for or able to understand. Your willingness to answer her questions reinforces that her body is safe to discuss.
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How To Explain Menstruation: Talking To Your Child About Periods
Are you feeling unsure how to communicate with your child about menstruation ? Talking to your child about personal subjects like periods can feel uncomfortable for both of you at first, but providing them with credible information can help them understand their bodies and make good decisions for their health.
Let us guide you through how to talk to your child about periods and how to answer some common questions they might have.
Empower Her With Proper Tools
A proper preparation can help her understand her body and periods with self confidence. Give her instances from your past to help her with her future. Derive lessons in fun ways to open her up and help her relate about what could happen and how she could avoid them. While in this conversation, you can also educate her about the risks and measures she needs to take while shes out with her peers. We, at Adira have curated a period starter kit that with all the period essentials that she would need.
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Talk To Your Daughter About Her First Period Now
Ideally, parents/caregivers should be the first people to teach a child about their physical health and development.
Do not think that your toddler or younger child is too young to understand periods. In fact, you should seize opportunities to bring up the conversations about periods.
This can be in response to questions asked when you are shopping for sanitary products or when your child sees sanitary products advertised on TV.
This is a good time to offer age-appropriate education about how the human body functions and how females need sanitary products for their monthly period. This conversation will continue to evolve as your child grows into a tween and is ready for a more in-depth conversation.
It is less daunting for your daughter if this conversation is drip-fed to her, instead of waiting for the one big period talk. Most importantly, starting the conversations at an early age prepares your child in the event she starts her period earlier than anticipated.
According to the NHS, the average age for girls to start their first period is 12 but some girls start as early as 8. Whilst having these conversations may not come naturally to some parents, just remember the reasons you are doing this.
Also, remember that if you dont talk to your daughter about her first period. She is likely to get this information from her peers in school or from the internet unsupervised. This leaves room for your child to learn half-truths about periods and puberty.
How To Talk About Periods With Your Kids
Having the period conversation can be awkward for parents and kids, yet an important one to address at the right time. Heres some tips on how to talk about periods comfortably.
Explaining and dealing with menstruation for the first time is a parenting milestone most families face whether we like it or not. If youre a mum, it may have been decades since you fumbled with your first pads or tampons. If youre a dad, talking to your children about periods may be no big deal or it might seem a little daunting. So how do we talk about periods with our kids?
I think both parents need to be very matter-of-fact about it, says psychologist Kirstin Bouse. Both mums and dads have a huge role to play in treating it as a natural part of life and not something you should have any shame about.
Girls can start menstruating as young as nine, or as late as 16. Most often its around the age of 12 or 13.
The most important thing for parents to know is that were the ones who set the tone, says season two host of our Navigating Parenthood podcast, Rebecca Sparrow. The more comfortable we can be in talking to our kids about periods, the more comfortable theyll be in discussing any issues or concerns they have with us.
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Questions To Guide The Talk
Starting conversations about puberty and periods with questions is always a great idea. When it comes to talking about topics that may seem awkward or personal, kids respond well to questions about their friends or classmates instead of focusing of their own changes. If talking about puberty, you might ask if you child has noticed any friends whose bodies are growing fast or if theyâve noticed any friends wearing a bra. As children enter middle school, there are lots of questions to ask about their friends or their school environment:
1)Do you know anyone who has started their period?
2)Have you seen pads or tampons in your school health room or bathrooms?
3)What would you do if a friend had a period stain on her gym shorts?
Follow up with open ended questions to guide you into deeper and more personal discussions. You can say things like
1) Tell me what you know about that
2) How is that going for them?
3) What are you curious about?
There are no right or wrong questions, but staying curious and calm will open a lot of doors for important conversations as your child grows up.
What Is A Period
A period typically happens about every month and is the process by which the uterus sheds its lining. This is in response to changes in the hormones throughout the body. Hormones from the pituitary gland in the brain communicate to the ovaries and the body. This causes the ovaries to release the hormones estrogen and progesterone into this body. Estrogen and progesterone cause the ovaries to mature and release an egg by process called ovulation. Estrogen and progesterone also cause the lining of the uterus to build up in preparation for possible pregnancy.
Once the egg is released from the ovary, it travels down the fallopian tube towards the uterus. If the egg meets a sperm as it travels, it can attach to the lining and will develop into a fetus/pregnancy. If the egg does not meet a sperm, it will travel into the uterus and with more changes in hormone levels, eventually be shed with the lining of the uterus as a period.
This process happens repeatedly and usually takes about a month for the lining to build up again and break down.
Menstruation can be scary and unknown for many girls, but it symbolizes that they are growing up. Make sure to explain very clearly what a period is so your child feels prepared.
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Keep Science To A Minimum
Girls need to know the basic biology of menstruation, but keep this part short and sweet. Be sure to cover why women get periods this can be a simple answer, like, When a girl gets her period, it means that her body has become biologically capable of having a baby. If willing and able, this can also be a great opportunity for mothers to elaborate on the topics of reproduction and childbirth.
Before The First Period
Dr. Horton said there are a few things dads should know before the inevitable first period starts, which typically happens around 12 and 13 years of age. However, genetics, body type, ethnicity and other factors cause the actual time for the menarche to vary from girl to girl.
When it comes to figuring out if your daughter is close to having her first period, Dr. Horton said to know the telltale signs. One major sign you may notice is your daughter beginning to develop breasts.
Typically, the first period is about 2 years after breast buds start to form, Dr. Horton said.
It is important to talk with your daughter before her first period starts to help her understand what to expect, according to Burke Miller. She also believes having several smaller talks, rather than just one big talk, is a better way to go. She advises keeping any conversations about puberty open and honest. You want to make the topic feel less like it is taboo.
Parents should also consider making a first period kit for their daughter to carry with herespecially at school. Use a small, zippered pouch and put a few teen-sized pads and a change of underwear in it in case her period starts when she is at school.
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Stay Positive And Get Help If You Need It
Whether youre seeing signs that your daughter is starting to go through puberty or you dont expect her first period for a while, its worth talking about. You can help ensure that she feels comfortable and confident whenever her period arrives.
That being said, Dr. Malaney recommends seeing a doctor if your child has issues related to her period such as difficulty inserting a tampon. Your childs doctor can also answer any questions you or your child have about periods, puberty and more.
Introduce The Topic Before There Are Tons Of Questions
AMAZE is a collaboration between Answer From Rutgers University, YTH and Advocates for Youth that takes the awkward out of sex ed through animated and informative videos. It has created multiple videos about menstruation with a kid and teen audience in mind, making it pretty easy for parents to introduce the topic to their families. For adults looking for a way to explain the actual process of menstruation, the AMAZE video below gives a quick breakdown.
As demonstrated in the video, its crucial to use the correct terminology for body parts and processes and not sugarcoat what happens before, during and after someone is menstruating.
Nora Gelperin, director of sexuality education and training at Advocates for Youth, plays a major role in creating the videos for AMAZE, and she stressed the importance of making time to talk with kids about menstruation and puberty in general. Its vital to do this before major changes happen, so parents arent left trying to answer a long list of questions.
Puberty is not voluntary, she told HuffPost. Its really important to talk about it early and often and not wait until your child comes to you with questions. Bring it up while youre riding in the car or on the subway together.
Gelperin said there are thousands of teachable moments to spark the discussion, whether it comes from the news, a movie or TV show, or just a trip to the grocery store.
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