When it comes to raising daughters, there is one thing we all worry about when they hit their teen years… Periods. They cause moods. They cause confusion. They cost a lot of money in hygiene products. And most of us grew up in an age where they caused a lot of awkwardness (for her and you!) The world has changed a little from the time we were entering womanhood. No more are the days of the belt for keeping up with our feminine needs (Anyone remember those?!) Thankfully, adhesive has been invented (thank you God for whoever came up with that) and there are a host of other options and resources at our disposal! Still, there’s a lot to navigate when it comes to this milestone in our daughter’s lives. Here are some practical tips and resources to prepare yourself and your daughter when it comes to getting her first period:
Make sure she is ready and knows what to expect
Girls are getting their periods at sooner and sooner ages it seems, and you never know when your daughter will get hers. Make her entrance into puberty and womanhood an ongoing discussion instead of the old “Talk.” You know your daughter best, but starting around age 8 or 9 is generally ideal to start sprinkling in information about the changes about to occur in her body. Try and make these natural and casual discussions, not some big mysterious, or formal event. Periods are, after all, a very natural part of life. You don’t want to do anything that can make your daughter feel like it has to be a secretive or shameful thing. If you need help finding a starting place for this conversation, I have included a substantial list of books at the end of this post to get the topic started with your girl. Explain to her what exactly her body is doing and why, and give her a list of the PMS symptoms that can occur as well as tips on how to help ease them. Make sure she knows that getting her period is nothing to be afraid of, but it is a natural part of growing up. The more she knows about what is going to happen, the more confident she will be when it does happen.
Plan on providing her with what she will need before her period comes (You may want to plan on giving her some starter supplies as early as age 10 or 11). You don’t want her caught out and about without a pad and feeling completely humiliated! Give her a cute little bag with some pads, a clean pair of underwear, an encouraging note, and maybe a little bit of chocolate to keep tucked away in her backpack, just in case. When she does get her period, there are tween and teen period tracker apps you can have her download to teach her how to keep track of her period and further help her understand her own body.
Choose the right product
There are SO many options for feminine hygiene products now! I recommend grabbing a variety of options and letting your daughter figure out which she likes best.
If you are looking for a one-time purchase, you may consider a menstrual cup. They are a fairly new option, but they do a great job. These are a wonderful solution if you are worried about chemicals and they are a healthy reusable option as opposed to disposable tampons and pads. They can be a little tricky to figure out at first, but if your daughter likes them they can be a healthy and cost-saving choice! Here’s a link to a solid brand: Diva Cup
Okay… these look awesome: Period panties. Unlike the cups, period panties don’t require inserting anything (as that can be a little unnerving, especially for younger teens or tweens) while still offering a chemical-free and reusable option. Bonus, they come in fun prints! The reviews I have read all say they work amazing at providing leak-free coverage on their own, or your daughter can wear them to capture any leaks that her pad/cup/tampon may miss. You can find them here: Thinx for Teens (They also have some other ingenious products. Highly recommend checking them out!)
You can always go the traditional route and use pads. Kotex and Always offer pads specifically for teens. Everyone has different preferences on what kinds of pads they like or need, so be sure to let your daughter weigh in on what she prefers. Provide a variety of sizes and styles until she figures out what kind of coverage she needs. If she feels embarrassed to shop in the store or talk with you about her needs, you can place an online order and allow her to pick out her own products privately.
When it comes to tampons there are a few more things you want to consider. First, you want to decide whether or not your daughter is ready to use them. Ask yourself these questions:
Is she responsible enough to use tampons safely?
Is she aware of the risk factors that come with tampons?
Is she OK with the idea of using them in the first place?
Does she want to use them?
While many preteen girls would rather use pads when they first get their periods, some may prefer to use tampons. Girls who are active in sports, or want to swim at summer camp may not want pads to interfere with their activities. Discuss options with your daughter but ultimately allow the choice to be hers. If you decide on tampons, girls and teens should opt for slender tampons because they’re smaller, and easier to insert, remove, and manage. Kotex and Tampex both make pads and tampons in tween and teen sizes. OB makes tampons without an applicator and they’re discreet to carry in their pocket. Seventh Generation offers tampons without chemicals.
For those of us who have been using them for years, we may have forgotten how confusing it can be to use a tampon! The process doesn’t always go as smoothly as we wish (literally). We have to remember that talking about periods can be an embarrassing and awkward subject for our daughters to talk about with us.
One of my daughters was totally open to talking about the process. We read the tampon directions, and I stood outside the door and coached her. After a few failed attempts, she asked me to come in to find out what the struggle was. My other daughter merely mumbled, “I got this. Thanks.” Your daughter may be adamant that she doesn’t want you to explain any of it, and that’s okay. While giving her the important information, try and be respectful of her feelings and need for privacy as possible.
Remember it can take time for them to get the hang of it and most girls are nervous at first. Reassure your daughter that when inserted properly, tampons do not hurt.
Directions are provided in each box of tampons. Go over the directions with her and ask her if she has any questions. A small hand mirror can be helpful so she can find the vaginal opening before attempting to insert the tampon. A common problem for many girls is they don’t realize the vagina is at an angle so they try to put it in straight up or take it out straight down. Explain this to them. Some KY jelly can be used on the tampon beforehand to make it less painful. Remind them that they need to wash their hands with soap before and after inserting or removing a tampon. If they’re uncomfortable with your instruction let them read the instructions on their own and if they have any questions you’ll be there to answer them. Another option is to provide a YouTube video. Make sure that you watch it first. There are quite a few inappropriate clips that can come up.
Here are some safe ones:
How to Use a Tampon by Tampax
Choosing an Awesome Tampon for Beginners by Tampax
Although your daughter getting her period can feel like a daunting and difficult topic to handle, I hope these resources can help the whole process go a lot smoother. Keep lines of communication open, and try to always speak about the process in a positive way. Do your best to hide your own discomfort and make the entire topic as approachable and natural as possible. You can do this!
Books to check out:
A Girl’s Guide To Puberty by Michelle Mitchell – This book is jammed packed with need-to-know information, messages of respect, and positive vibes to help tweens face puberty with confidence.
The Body Image Book for Girls: Love Yourself and Grow Up Fearless by Charlotte Markey
Celebrate Your Body (and Its Changes, Too!): The Ultimate Puberty Book for Girls (Celebrate You, 1) by Sonya Renee Taylor and Bianca I. Laureano
American Girl Series:
The Body Book (The Lily Series) – This is from a Christian perspective. My daughter really liked this one.
What’s Happening to My Body for Girls – Selected as a “Best Book for Young Adults” by the American Library Association geared towards 9-15 year old girls.
Celebratory Starter Kits/Gifts
Hello Flo Starter Kit – I love this website and they have hilarious videos and great information. Check it out.
Period Packs – Another great resource including an easy-to-read-book on menstruation and a parent’s guide on how to begin the conversation.