Saturday 14 March 2020

Talking to your Daughter Once she Starts her Periods - The Practicalities

Teen girls in a field together
Photo by Melissa Askew on Unsplash

As parents, we're fully aware that we need to prepare our daughters for when they start menstruating. The NHS states that the average age in the UK is 12 years old, but it can be as young as 8, so it is important to have conversations early on with your child to ensure they feel ready for when the big day comes along.

Chatting to your child about puberty, menstruation, sex and other sensitive topics doesn't have to be difficult. if you can approach it in a matter-of-fact fashion and show that you won't be shocked, your child will probably be more open to talking to you. Have a look at my post from a couple of years ago with some tips for having an effective talk with your child.

What I've found is that it is all good-and-well having good, open conversations so your daughter feels prepared but actually when the time comes and they start their period, it is important to have another conversation. To actually talk them through some of the practicalities of having their periods, discussing items such as -

1.  Help her track it
We know that a young woman's period will last for between 3-7 days and will appear around every 28-30 days, but it is super easy to forget when you are due on and be caught out. So get your daughter a calendar, diary or online app like Period Tracker or Clue (here's a recent article on Good Housekeeping suggesting the best tracking apps) so she feels in control and gets to know her own menstrual cycle. 

2. Talk about leaks and help her understand how to deal with them
We all have leaks, on our knickers, nightclothes and bedsheets, so make sure your daughter knows she doesn't have to feel embarrassed. It is best to act promptly and in the case of blood, cold water and soap are your best friends. Hot water just sets the blood and therefore it is good to rinse out any stained items before they go in the washing machine. Agree with your daughter what you want her to do, whether to strip her own bed or just to advise you and you'll take care of it. 

3.  Nighttime protection
It seems to be the case for most people that their flow is heavier at night time, or it may just be that being in one place for such a long time leads to leaks. Whilst your daughter is getting to know her cycle and flow it might be an idea to get her some 'period pants', dark knickers that a wider than she normally wears to keep her night-time pad firmly in place to minimise leaks. 

4. Changing her tampon regularly
If your daughter chooses to use tampons, have a chat about toxic shock syndrome, not to scare her but just to make her aware that there are serious consequences for not taking her personal hygiene seriously. You must use the lowest absorbency tampon for your flow and change it every 4-6 hours as a minimum. An easy way to check if your tampon needs changing is to tug the string lightly and if it starts to move then it needs changing.

6.  Disposal of pads and tampons
Your daughter may have seen pads and tampons and been encouraged to be hands-on with them in classes at school, but they may not have any idea how to dispose of the used items responsibly. What can be flushed, what can't etc. 

6.  Eco-friendly options
It might be important to your daughter to use the sanitary protection that creates the least harmful impact on our planet, so research the options available to her. There are fabulous period pants now like Modibodi, or biodegradable pads and tampons or even washable bamboo pads.

7.  Taking pain relief
Of course, it might be helpful for your daughter to take something like paracetamol if she is having menstrual cramps, but it is important that she lets you know what she is taking and when.

8.  Hot water bottles can be useful
Something as simple as a hot water bottle might just be the bit of comfort she needs when she has cramps or doesn't feel that great, so make sure you have one with a comfy cover to hand.

9.  Hormonal changes and mood swings
It may come as a shock to your daughter to find that she starts to feel emotional and has no idea why. It might be a good idea for her to start to track how she feels and where she is in her cycle, so she can start to understand how her feelings change now she is developing.  Often the mood swings come just before her period arrives and maybe in the first few days, but we are all different. 

10.  Having sex
I have to admit that it horrifies me to think that my young daughters could have sex, but I don't think we should bury our head in the sand and it is really important that our girls know that they can get pregnant from the moment(or even just before) they visibly start their periods. Also, we need to make sure they don't buy into any of the myths like they can't get pregnant if the guy pulls out before he comes.

I hope you've found this post helpful. This parenting lark can be a minefield at times, but if we trust our gut and help each other, it will all work out!  Mich x

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