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Do you remember the first time that your parents sat you down to have the “period talk?” It was probably an awkward conversation, more than likely led by your mother who may have been the only parent equipped with the knowledge of what to say. It’s certainly not uncommon if your father, like many others, faded into the background on this one. The reality is, even though times may have drastically changed since our first sit down with mom and dad, there still is no official rulebook on how to navigate the “period talk,” and approaching it now isn’t any less awkward than it was years ago.
If you’re looking for a little bit more insight to help ease into this conversation with your child, and stay equipped with everything you need to know as a mother – or father – keep reading because we’ve got you covered!
According to KidsHealth, “talking about periods shouldn’t be one big talk at a particular age.” Instead, parents are advised to start the conversation as early as possible, and slowly build upon their children’s understanding from there. It is also a conversation that shouldn’t be limited to just daughters. Boys should be equally educated about periods and menstrual cycles as well.
According to KidsHealth, if your young son sees a tampon, or pad, and is curious about what it is and what it is used for, simply explain to him that “women bleed a little from their vagina every month. It’s called a period. It isn’t because they’re hurt. It’s how [their] body gets ready for a baby.”
The point is that opening room for this dialogue allows for your children to become aware of the physical changes that both girls and boys’ bodies undergo with age. As they continue to grow, having this conversation already established and taken place also allows for you to delve deeper into the topic of puberty, sexual reproduction, and more.
Even if you decide to take the approach of having conversations as early as possible, there will still be the day that your daughter will experience her period for the first time, and you will be required to spring into action. Years of introductory conversations will of course lay a great foundation for this life change, but there are chunks of information that you’ll want to ensure are entirely covered and understood.
Periods are caused by a change of hormones in the body. According to ChildrensMN.org, “The ovaries release the hormones estrogen and progesterone. These hormones cause the lining of the uterus (or womb) to build up. The built-up lining is ready for a fertilized egg to attach and start developing. If there is no fertilized egg, the lining breaks down and bleeds. Then the same process happens all over again. It usually takes about a month for the lining to build up, then break down.”
It’s a month-long process, which explains why a period only occurs once a month. However, it is not uncommon for a young girl, who is new to starting her menstrual cycle, to experience it more infrequently. It is important that you let your daughter know that if her cycle is infrequent, it will become more regular with time. She also must understand that periods can last for an average of five days, but can even be shorter or longer, and can potentially be accompanied by symptoms of PMS, also known as premenstrual syndrome.
Which can bring along “emotional and physical symptoms” such as “moodiness, sadness, anxiety, bloating, and acne.” It is also very important for a young girl to understand that this change in her body ultimately brings along the ability for her to physically carry, and give birth to, a child. This would be the most effective, and fitting, time to have a transparent conversation about sexual activity and practicing safe sexual practices.
According to Always, using a menstrual pad that fits properly is bound to ensure the ultimate “period protection.” And when speaking to your daughter about the importance of finding the right feminine hygiene products for her, you’ll want to advise her against taking a “one size fits all” type of approach. It’s important that she understands that her body will require its own size of the pad, as well as its own strength of leakage protection.
It’s important to explain to your daughter that pads are available in different “lengths and front-back coverages” to match her specific protection needs. “A longer daytime pad (or using a specially designed nighttime pad) can increase the coverage front to back and reduce leaks, says Always.
When shopping for your daughter’s first pack of pads, be sure to bring her into the store with you. Most pads are packaged with charts or labels that indicate their size and strength of leakage protection, so explaining this chart to your daughter and showing her a variety of different pad options will allow her to get the best understanding of what size and strength she should be purchasing to match the flow of her period.
When explaining the topic of tampons to your daughter, it’s important to point out that: unlike pads which can vary in size and absorbency, tampons soley vary in absorbency. Therefore, it’s strongly advised for her to pay a lot of attention to the intensity of her flow, and how it may change over the course of her period.
Remember to advise your daughter that since she is menstruating for the first time, it’s best to start by using tampons with the lowest absorbency – usually labeled “thin, light, or junior.” These tampons are “typically more comfortable and can be easier to insert for those who are newer to the process.” Explain to your daughter that if she notices that her tampon is quickly becoming soaked or leaking, that is a great indication that she should switch over to a tampon made to absorb a heavier flow. Over time, she will learn how to adjust the tampons that she uses over the course of her period.
According to the Mayo Clinic, pads and tampons should be changed “every four to eight hours.” And it’s extremely important that your daughter remains attentive to how light or heavy her period flow is so that she knows whether she should be changing her pad or tampon more frequently. Be sure to also advise your daughter that tampon use can come at the risk of experiencing toxic shock syndrome, which is a “rare but serious condition caused by a bacterial infection.” It is extremely important that you emphasize the importance of replacing your pad or tampon on a regular basis with your daughter.
Pantiliners, or daily liners, are an absorbent piece of material – similar, but much lighter than a pad – that can be worn on a daily basis to absorb vaginal discharge, spotting, or bladder leakage. It’s important to also introduce this option to your daughter, as pantiliners provide an easy way for her to feel fresh, confident, and clean – whether she’s nearing her period or not, experiencing any degree of vaginal discharge, or just would like another layer of protection to keep her feeling fresh. Pantiliners are also available in scented options, as well as a variety of shapes to adjust to different underwear styles.
Because this is such a pivotal time, filled with so many emotional and physical changes, it’s important for your daughter to understand that she has the utmost support from her parents. She will have many questions about the changes in her body, as well as the emotions and thoughts that she is now beginning to experience. And according to Always, “talking through her concerns will not only encourage her to take pride in her body and to make healthy choices but will also provide an opportunity for you and your daughter to better understand each other.”
Let her know that you will always be there for her as a source of support, a breath of confidence, and a listening ear, and work to establish a “good pattern of communication.” Always suggests for parents to, “Take some time to remember what concerned you as a teenager. What were you too embarrassed to talk about? What do you wish your mother had told you at the time? Or what did she do that made you feel better back then? That will help you relate better to what your daughter is going through now. By talking to your daughter openly about these, you will also help her to take responsibility for her own health and make good choices as she grows up.”
It’s important to remember that the “period talk” shouldn’t just be left to the mothers to handle. Even though a father may not understand the experience to the same extent as the mother, the daughter still wants to feel the presence of her father, as well as his accompanying support through this transformational time.
According to the Penny Pack, important points for dads to keep in mind when approaching this life-changing time with their daughters is: to provide the most emotional support as possible, remember to seek out educational books and other materials to provide you both with the information you may need, don’t be afraid to bring other significant female figures that are a part of your daughter’s life into the conversation, and remember to be accepting of the fact that you never may have all of the answers, but the most important thing will always be providing a space for open conversation. Doing this ensures that no matter what changes occur physically or emotionally in your daughter’s life, she knows that your line of communication and endless support will always be present.