If you have a young daughter then it is likely that you have considered the day when she starts her periods. Maybe you are absolutely comfortable with it, as I was as a gynaecology nurse, but I know from experience that, understandably, many mums (and dads) find it hard to know how and when to approach the subject of starting periods.
Be open about your own periods
The biggest piece of advice I can give you is to be open about your own periods from day one. If a girl grows up seeing sanitary pads and tampons and feeling comfortable with the whole topic then it won’t be a big surprise when it happens. I always explained when my daughters asked me what I was doing, and made it clear from the start that the same thing would happen to them too. Don’t forget they could be very young when it happens so you don’t want them to be unprepared, scared or embarrassed.
Prepare your answers in advance
If your daughter asks questions, have your answers prepared and be casual and open. After all, periods are completely natural and vital for the continuation of the species! It is an exciting part of growing up and many girls love the idea of being ‘like mum’ and getting older. Although periods are not particularly pleasant to have to go through, menstruation does serve a very good purpose.
As my girls approached the days when starting their periods was possible I gave them both a little make-up bag in which they could keep lip balm and tissues etc, and in that I put a little tin/pouch of some sanitary pads to have to hand in case their periods started when they were away from me eg. school, school trips, sleepovers etc. I then explained what they should do and who they should tell if it happened.
A first period experience can be very different for every girl. On average they start between the ages of 10 and 16 although they can be younger or older. Their first period may be very short, may be very dark blood or bright red so it is a good idea to explain this so they aren’t worried if it isn’t what they expected. It can take many months to get into a regular pattern.
It is also helpful to prepare them for dealing with embarrassing mishaps. There are ways of covering up stains until you’re able to change your clothes, such as tying a jumper around your waist. It may be a good idea to keep a spare pair of pants and tights in their bag as well.
Prepare your sons too
The same goes if you have sons, to a lesser extent. If you have both sex children then it is a great advantage if a boy grows up feeling comfortable and knowledgeable about girls and periods. They can be very confusing and I know my son has taken the brunt of a lot of pre-menstrual tension over the years! Luckily he isn’t phased by any of it because, having two sisters, he understands!
Sanitary Pads for Teens
There are some products specifically designed for tweens and teens, to have in preparation for starting periods and in the early days. Lil-Lets do a lovely range (amongst others) which my girls loved. You can buy them at most supermarkets, choice of size and absorbency, and also online. (Links in images)
Storage bags for Sanitary Towels
…and then there are many pretty little bags and tins to carry them, discreetly, in their bags. Look in supermarkets, chemists or online (links in images).
It is a good idea to invest in some appropriate reading material and there is plenty available. My daughter reminded me that I bought both her and her sister this brilliant book called The Little Book of Growing Up (it’s only 99p from Amazon)
Period Tracking Apps
This is one of the best period trackers, but not the only one available. It is all about menstrual and reproductive health so not only can you track and prepare for your period, there is also heaps of information for you and your daughter like ‘What’s it like getting your first period?‘, ‘Puberty advice to my 13-year-old self’ (tips for navigating puberty) and ‘When will I get my first period?‘ It’s an American app and it’s brilliant, not just for adolescents but for us adults too, as it covers just about everything right up to menopause and beyond.
There are also some great NHS resources to help you deal with the facts about starting periods and prepare your approach. They also have links to great books and leaflets for parents and children, including books specially developed to help explain menstruation to a child with learning difficulties.