A parents Guide
Your beautiful little girl is growing up and turning into a woman - you can see the signs and want to prepare her for that day when she gets her first period. You don't feel altogether comfortable about it and you aren't sure what to say or how to start.
Menstruation has been and still is a taboo subject - people don't like to talk about it.
This is what makes it difficult for most parents to speak openly with their daughters about the changes she will go through during puberty.
We have put together a few ideas on how to approach this time.
Step 1 - Know your material
Having the right information and knowing exactly what happens during menstruation is a helpful way to get over the taboo. The more you know your 'material' - the more comfortable you are going to be about discussing it. There are many resources around, both in print and on the web.
Physically - things to understand.
- Learn the mechanics of how women bleed
- what happens each month on a physical level,
- what do women use (types, brands, alternatives) and how do they use it.
- Simple pain management
- How to chart and keep track of a cycle.
- Fertility basics
Girls are getting their periods at a younger age, so be selective about what your daughter needs to know at any stage. A young girl of 10 or 11, needs simpler information than a girl who is 14 or 15. The key is to open communication channels, or have information available so they can absorb what they are ready for.
For example - If you have a daughter who is younger, coming to grips with the physical aspects may be a priority for her eg what to use, when do periods come etc. She doesn't need to know about how to recognise her fertility at this stage but you can plant seeds for further discussion. You can explain to her that her body gives signals about its state of fertility, that each phase of the cycle has a distinct purpose and that when she is older she can learn how to recognise the special signals her body is sending her
It is a good idea to look at menstruation not only from a physical point of view but also the emotional point of view. After all, after your daughter has the facts and the physicality under control - learning to deal with the emotional ups and downs and change in moods will be the next major task, and one that will also impact the people around her.
Step 2 De-sensitise yourself
The more you talk about and think about menstruation the more ordinary it becomes. So practise. Practise on your spouse or good friends first, before you try it on your daughter.
Step 3 - The importance of self awareness.
It is very important to be aware of your own feelings and thoughts on the subject of menstruation. We all have subconscious beliefs about what menstruation means, and often they are not positive. Taking the time to think about and reframe your own attitude to menstruation can diffuse some of the discomfort and embarrassment you might feel.
If you are a woman - and your own passing into puberty was fraught with shame and disapproval, now is the time to look at the menstrual cycle in a different light. Do you really want your daughter carrying on this negative legacy?
What does it mean to you that your daughter is growing up and maturing sexually?
This question can be especially difficult to confront if your daughter is in the younger bracket of the puberty spectrum. Girls are getting their periods at a younger and younger age, caused in part by the abundance of synthetic hormones in the food we eat and a more sedentary lifestyle. It is important to remember that just because her body is maturing it doesn't mean that her mind or emotions are making the same quantum leap.
The whole puberty process can take a couple of years so there is time to get used to it all. And your daughter may not necessarily become sexually active just because she has her periods.
How do YOU feel?
Adolescence is the start of something new - childhood slips into the past. As with any change and time of transition, there are many feelings that come to the surface. Grief at time lost, fear of what is in the future, anger at factors we can't control or our own aging process as we see our daughters stepping into their prime.
It is not an easy time. Being open to your own conflicting emotions and being able to put them in perspective means that you are less likely to get caught up in conflicts and more able to lovingly support your daughter through her transition.
Step 4 - Keep the lines of communication open.
Be ready to talk when they need it. It can be funny - we get ourselves all psyched up to have this super important talk with our children only to find they don't seem to be at all interested. Then at another time, out of the blue they are ready and catch us unprepared.
Take the opportunity to talk when it comes. Have your knowledge ready and remember they often need information in small bite size chunks. Don't be too disappointed when you don't get the chance to let them know the whole story in one go.
That's about it so far. Please give us feedback and suggestions about what has or hasn't worked - so we can share it with other parents.
We stock a couple of books on puberty - Jane Bennetts "A blessing not a Curse" and "Puberty Girl" by Shushann Movsessian Check them out at our online shop.
Written by Nadia MacLeod