Your daughter's first period will be a big time in her life. It's an occasion that can feel overwhelming to girls and parents alike, but with a little advance preparation you can make sure she is prepared and also make it into a really positive occasion.
Your daughter will need several things to prepare her and make it special:
1. Information: While it's good to provide girls with information about their bodies and periods from a young age, it's especially important to make sure she has current, correct information as her period nears. Look for books that deal with first periods (preview them yourself, as many are full of outdated information or may contain parts you are not comfortable with). One that our family used was Growing Up: It's a Girl Thing (Straight Talk About First Bras, First Periods, and Your Changing Body), which is recommended for girls ages 8 and up and is very child friendly. New Moon Girls an ad-free magazine for girls 8-14 that comes with a membership to a secure online community is another good source of information for young girls, with female mentors on the site who can answer embarrassing questions.
2. Discussion: This will probably be a somewhat embarrassing topic for your daughter, so proceed with caution here. That said, it's important for her to hear from you on this subject. Ask if she has any questions. Share the story of your first period. Talk about positive aspects of the time and share tips that help you during that time of the month. Also talk about details of yours since hers may be similar, such as how long it lasts and whether you experience cramping, moodiness or other effects. One of my daughters told me that it helps if you talk about funny things that happened to you and other light-hearted talk, "because if you can giggle, it won't be as serious and scary."
3. Products: Before your daughter's first period arrives, start to assemble a special box of menstrual products. Consider including several brands and types of disposable pads, cloth pads (which tend to be much softer and more comfortable besides being environmentally friendly, and can be made at home and also found on Etsy) and perhaps some slender tampons (talk to her also about the slight risk of Toxic Shock Syndrome and consider supplying organic tampons if you're concerned about dioxins and such). You might also want to include products like a sea sponge or diva cup, though at first she may be more comfortable with products like pads that are easier to use. You might also want to include other items that could make her period easier, such as a microwaveable heating pad to help with cramps or anything that helps you feel better. Give her the special box of products well in advance of her first period, so she can read the inserts and familiarize herself with the products in private.
4. A plan: Here's one of the nicest parts. Let your daughter know that you'll do something special when the occasion finally arrives. Ask her what she prefers. Choices could include going out with you and other special women in her life for a celebratory meal, mother-daughter manicures or pedicures, a special women-only evening at home, going to the mall for a special day with wonderful women in her life, piercing her ears for the first time or something else where she can be welcomed into womanhood by you and/or other supportive women who love her and will help make this a positive, fun initiation into this part of life.
5. Something pampering: Also consider putting aside something special to accompany her first period. At our house, it's a box of fabulous local chocolates.
How do you know when your daughter's period will start? Nature tends to give us good advance warning -- a girl's first period generally begins about six months to a year after she starts to develop breasts.
With a little preparation like this, you can help your daughter begin this new phase of her life in a really positive, special way.
Next time: Free samples to help assemble your first period kit.
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Note: This is an updated version of an article that first appeared in my Mankato Attachment Parenting column.