Puberty was a very traumatic experience for me. I was already in high school, surrounded by girls who’d had their periods for years. On one hand, I felt mature; on the other, I felt inexperienced and unprepared. I didn’t even know what an unwrapped pad looked like. I was embarrassed and ashamed of what was happening. I know my story is common with puberty for girls, but it doesn’t have to be.
1. Help her understand what the menstrual cycle is.
Yes, teach her how to use a pad or tampon, but don’t stop there. Before she even starts her period, talk about its purpose, inner workings, and outward signs. Moms can use puberty for girls as an opportunity to share the beauty of how a woman’s body functions to create and support life.
I didn’t learn how my cycle really worked until I was in my mid-twenties and engaged. If I’d known the different phases, I might have saved myself from countless early “surprises” and wasted pads when my period came late. By teaching your daughter the outward signs and inner workings of her cycle, she will better understand her body and feel more comfortable in her skin.
2. Don’t hide your body.
When our kids are very little, we don’t think twice about bringing them into the bathroom stall with us—even when we need to change a pad or tampon. We don’t need to start hiding once our children are old enough to ask questions. All kids (boys included) should know that periods are completely normal and healthy. If mothers normalize periods early, girls won’t be ashamed or frightened the first time they experience it themselves.
If mothers normalize periods early, girls won’t be ashamed or frightened the first time they experience it themselves.
One of the best ways to do that is to answer your children’s questions in age-appropriate ways as they ask. When your young child asks you why you have hair in certain places, why you shave, why you use deodorant, or why you need pads or tampons, don’t shy away from giving simple, honest answers. Plus, if your daughter hits puberty earlier than you expect, she’ll be ready.
3. Get comfortable with your own menstrual cycle.
Many women treat their monthly periods with a certain amount of shame and secrecy. Why do women become super secretive when we move a tampon from a purse to a pocket? We have children! People know we get our periods!
Openly discussing periods is still considered taboo by most people, including many women. If a mother is not comfortable with her own body and menstrual cycle, she won’t be able to provide her daughter with the guidance and support she needs. Moms should also prepare dads since many men won’t know the first thing about puberty in girls.
4. Remember that her puberty might coincide with your perimenopause.
You and your daughter might be suffering from mood swings and hormone shifts at the same time, which can make life a bit tense from time to time—but since you’re both going through something new, you can relate to each other.
Even if you haven’t reached that stage, you can still remember what puberty was like and empathize with your daughter. Mood swings and hormonal changes are inevitable for women, so be patient with your daughter and with yourself.
5. Provide your daughter with all the physical necessities.
A shy girl is not going to want to ask her mother for deodorant or pads. Rather than putting your daughter in an uncomfortable and embarrassing position, provide her with everything she’ll need (deodorant, pads, tampons, and bras) before she needs it, and make sure she knows how to use it.
There will be plenty of opportunities to celebrate your daughter’s coming of age that won’t involve telling her that she should have started using deodorant yesterday or coaching her through her first period at 7 a.m. when you’re trying to get out the door for work and school.
What was the most difficult part of puberty for you as a young woman?