Is your child complaining of intermittent abdominal pain and bickering over seemingly small disagreements? In that case, their body may be performing an incredible, miraculous, complicated, sometimes painful, and almost-always-at-least-a-little-bit-uncomfortable feat.
It’s that time of the month. If you cringe at the thought of the person you love most experiencing mood swings, cramps, and other unfortunate period problems, you’re not alone.
Still, failing to have proper precautions in place can land you and your daughter in water hotter than your favorite cramp-busting bath can provide. Periods can be challenging, but coaching your daughter through her first cycle doesn’t have to be.
Menstruation is natural
While a first period can seem to come out of nowhere, Aunt Flow typically leaves behind some clues that she’s about to visit. Breast development, pubic hair growth, and the presence of vaginal discharge indicate that a person’s first period will begin soon.
While menstruation is entirely natural, it can feel all too overwhelming for first-time wearers of the red badge of courage. Unfortunately, discussing private bodily functions with a first-timer dealing with a whirlwind of hormones and physical changes is a recipe for embarrassment.
Almost half of young women aged 14-21 say they experience period shame and emotional discomfort.
Although uncomfortable, discussing your child’s menstrual cycle before, during, and after can help destigmatize the subject, making them more comfortable in their body. By explaining the symptoms, bodily functions and giving them unconditional love, you can support them through their first period experience.
Explain what’s happening in her body
Adding confusion and uncertainty to an already stressful situation can exacerbate your daughter’s distress, so providing an honest and clear-cut explanation of her reproductive functions can ease discomfort. Cover general information about menstrual cycle phases like ovulation and menstruation, explain symptoms and how to manage them, and discuss reproductive and sexual health to give your child a firm understanding of what’s to come.
Make a period kit
Help your daughter feel prepared for her first period by assembling a discrete kit of tools that she can access anytime, anywhere. Be sure to include pads, tampons, or a menstrual cup, as well as a clean pair of underwear and some moist wipes. Most young girls need a trusted loved one to show them how to use period products, so don’t be embarrassed to get hands-on.
With all of the necessary period products on hand, your daughter won’t feel like she’s been left without a life preserver when the crimson wave comes crashing.
Check your negativity and focus on empowerment
While it can be all too easy to use negative language when referring to periods, a neutral narrative surrounding your daughter’s upcoming menstrual cycles can help to dissolve unnecessary fear-based anticipation. Your feelings about periods are entirely valid, whether you associate menstruation with pain and suffering or the product of an incredible miracle.
Still, genuine positivity regarding concepts like the beauty of reproduction or being a member of the uterus-having club can help empower your daughter.
Many young girls experience debilitating symptoms that can interrupt daily life. Support her by accompanying her to physician visits and offer help if she feels too shy to explain her period-woes. An honest conversation that illuminates menstruation’s uncomfortable aspects while also discussing her body’s natural abilities and power helps her prepare for upcoming changes with realistic optimism.
Talk her through PMS
The first bout of PMS felt by young women can be startling and uncontrollable. Let her know she may experience cramping, bloating, sadness/irritability, food cravings, nausea, acne, and breast tenderness in the days leading up to and during her period.
Take the time to discuss PMS remedies like warm baths/compresses, medications, exercise, nutrition, and meditation. By prepping and preparing for her first cycle, you can minimize pain and discomfort, setting her up for future success.
Bust classic period myths
Period conversations are often riddled with shame and stigmatization. Demystify untrue myths and misconceptions by going over topics like blood loss and pain. Mention that she’ll likely only lose a few tablespoons of blood per cycle and that cramping—although uncomfortable—is expected.
Open yourself up to all questions, and provide her with resources like trusted books or medical professionals who can answer the questions that may be out of your knowledge range. She might fear she won’t be able to swim, sleep, exercise, or perform day-to-day tasks comfortably. Let her know that she can ultimately do anything she wants to do, bleeding or not. Period.
One final note
While it may be daunting to explain and soothe your child as they experience their first menstrual cycle, you can minimize the discomfort on all ends with adequate preparation, care, and understanding. Allow your child to express pain, teach them the ins-and-outs of period maintenance, and let them know they aren’t alone.