Girls are beginning puberty earlier than a generation ago, so talking to your daughter about her first period sooner rather than later can help her develop strong body confidence as she enters this time of change.
Before raising the subject of menstruation, it’s a good idea for you to be clear on the basics. For most girls, the signs of their first period appear between the ages of eight and 14. The average length of menstruation is five days but this can vary widely. A typical monthly cycle is 28 days but it can last anywhere between 22 and 40 days; however, the first few years of menstruation usually don’t follow a regular pattern.
Every girl is different and it’s normal if your daughter doesn’t fall exactly into these timelines. What’s important to understand is that this will all be new for her, and this ‘coming of age’ can have an impact on her self-esteem and body confidence, especially if she feels alone or unaware. By being informed yourself, you’ll have a better chance of helping her navigate these changes and be comfortable in her changing body.
Your daughter’s first period may happen when she starts to develop breasts, grow pubic or underarm hair or experience white or yellowish vaginal discharge. You may also notice changes in her behavior, such as increased moodiness or argumentativeness. These changes are often the result of her body producing reproductive hormones, preparing her body for the possibility of pregnancy. Talk with your daughter about these signs before she starts her period. Some girls aren’t aware of the pre-cursors to menstruation, and it can be disconcerting if she doesn’t know what to expect. By discussing these first period symptoms, she can be prepared for what’s to come, which can help her feel more in control.
For some parents, raising the issue is the hardest part, but starting the conversation early can help your daughter manage these changes with minimal impact to her self-esteem. Your first instinct may be to sit your daughter down for a serious discussion about getting her first period. However, it easier for your girl to digest the information – if you weave the topic into day-to-day conversations.
It’s always wise for parents to prepare their girls for puberty by having many conversations about it before menstruation occurs, so they are emotionally prepared as well as practically prepared
There is no right way to launch the discussion, but one good place to start is by asking your daughter if she knows what ‘a period’ is. If she already knows, you might try asking whether she knows any girls who have had their first period. Enquire about what she has heard in school or through her friends. Explore what she knows about potential first period symptoms. Mothers could also share their own experience of starting menstruation.
Ensuring your daughter has a good grasp of the physical and emotional changes that happen during puberty, and how they are connected, can help her develop a healthy relationship with her body. Being educated allows her to be more prepared for what lies ahead. Helping girls understand that sometimes how they feel is related to the changes in their bodies prepares them to understand their reproductive health throughout the lifespan. It can also help them be kinder toward themselves at certain times during the month. This is planting the seeds for self-care.
For example, if she’s been feeling particularly emotional for a few days, or encountering a bad break-out of spots, help her understand that this is probably connected to her hormones and isn’t something she should judge herself for. Instead, over time, she can learn to anticipate mood swings or skin changes and come up with ways to manage them.
For girls who have had their first period, mothers and daughters should track the menstrual cycle, since it can be sporadic at first. Tracking the days in the cycle also helps girls with body awareness – being connected with their physical and emotional experiences and understanding patterns. Tracking helps predict days when girls may be more sensitive, or chatty, lethargic, or crave comfort food.
By monitoring, listening to and understanding her body, your daughter is likely to find it easier to manage her monthly cycle and feel confident in her maturing body.