I first started my period when I was 11. I was too embarrassed to tell my mom, so I stuffed a washcloth in my underwear. When I finally got up the nerve to tell her, she gave me a horrendous contraption—a sanitary pad and belt. The pads had long ends that connected inside the hooks. It gave spectacular wedgies. This was my first clue that my mom had archaic ideas about sexuality and wouldn’t be a source of support for me. Luckily, my friends helped me out (after they stopped laughing hysterically).
My story pales in comparison to some who started bleeding and thought they were hemorrhaging or whose moms proclaimed the “good news” to everyone they met. Did you have a similar experience? Want to do better with your own child? Then avoid these 5 mistakes with your daughter’s first period.
1. Waiting too long to talk about it.
It’s so important that girls see menstruation as a normal part of life. Start the conversation when they’re little and they ask about your tampons or pads. Your answer can be simple: “These are for girls who are bigger.” By the time they are 9 or 10, have a conversation about the many changes their bodies will experience in the next couple of years. Share your own development story. A source that helped me and my daughters is the book Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret by Judy Blume. It’s a timeless story about an adolescent girl navigating this subject and the social pressures around it.
2. Allowing your emotions to get in the way.
Having a period, underarm and pubic hair, and growing breasts are normal developmental stages of growth for a girl. When each of my girls experienced these changes, it felt like a slap of reality for me. My little girl was becoming a woman! Emotionally process those feelings in private so they don’t feel uncomfortable because of what you’re feeling about it. Acting natural will help them feel at peace about it.
3. Leaving it to the school to teach her.
School curriculums may contain information you don’t agree with. Kids will often adopt beliefs according to the first information they’re given on a subject. Talk to your school administration and find out what is being taught and when. That way, you can teach your children what you want them to learn first. I was able to access the health curriculum and teach age-appropriate information to my kids before they learned it in school.
4. Dismissing her feelings when she compares herself to her friends.
My oldest daughter’s first period didn’t start until high school. Her younger sister started before her, as did all her friends. She felt embarrassed and anxious that there was something wrong with her. I knew it would all happen for her in time, but she needed my compassion and understanding. Her pain was real as a teenager who felt like the odd man out. Take time to listen to her fears. Gently reassure her that her body will come around in time.
5. Not making opportunities for her to ask questions.
When she’s a preteen, establish a routine in which your daughter can ask questions and share all she’s feeling and experiencing. Set a monthly dessert night together. As the two of you become comfortable discussing these changes, it naturally will evolve into sharing about sexuality, peer pressure, and other social and emotional issues. Let your daughter know often that you have confidence in her as a person. Your vote will boost her self-esteem.
Let your daughter know often that you have confidence in her as a person. Your vote will boost her self-esteem.
What is your first period story? Would you do anything to help with your daughter’s first period that your mom didn’t do?