Saturday 20 January 2018

All about periods - menstruation

Getting her first period can be both an exciting and fearful time for your daughter, but by talking openly with her, and also preparing practically,this will help ensure she is well-equipped for the transition, writes Sinéad O’Carroll

Sinéad O’Carroll

One minute you’re queuing up for Hannah Montana tickets and the next you find yourself in the feminine products isle in the supermarket.

Your daughter will turn from ‘tween’ to ‘teen’ quicker than you can say no to a Justin Bieber concert – so you have got to make sure you are prepared.

The biggest change that will happen, and the one every teenage girl is waiting for, is the arrival of her first period.

For a parent, the occasion can mark the beginning of your ‘little girl’ growing into a young woman and its best not to let the event sneak up on you.

The average age for a girl to start menstruating is about 12 or 13, but it is not unusual for it to be much earlier or later than that.

Early indicators can be the development of breasts and pubic hair. Once these signs start appearing, it is probably time to sit down and chat about menstruation.

Having ‘the talk’

It’s so important not to wait until after your daughter starts menstruating to have any talk about it. Puberty and growing up can be confusing enough without any forewarning or preparation. Besides talking about her feelings, you must also make sure your daughter is practically prepared for her first period.

Does she know exactly what a period is? Can she use a sanitary towel? What is she expecting when she gets her fi rst period? Has she talked to any of her friends or classmates about menstruation? Is she prepared if she gets her period outside of the home?

Equipping your daughter with the perfect feminine products can be part of your conversation. Why not take a trip to the supermarket together and pick her sanitary pads out before the event? This way, she’ll feel grown-up and prepared to take on any changes her body is going through.

Most sanitary products now are slimline, discreet and there are even special packs for young girls. Make sure she takes a pad or two with her in her school bag and any overnight bags for camps or sleepovers. If her period happens to come outside of the home, she’ll be grateful you have prepared her.

It is also important to help your daughter understand the changes that she will go through in the coming months and years.

There is no need to unduly frighten her but it may be useful to warn your daughter that she may experience some abdominal cramps and tiredness when her period comes. You can also tell her that, although she may have heard that periods arrive once a month, this might not be the case for her for the first while. Periods can remain irregular for some time for some teenagers. They can also last for anywhere between two and seven days.

Fitting in

Teenagers often just want to “fit in” so being the first or the last to “get” their period among their friends will be more diffi cult. Either one will make them feel out of the loop or unusual. If your daughter is the fi rst of her class or peers, she may feel more embarrassed but if she is the last, she may feel unusual or immature. Whatever happens, make sure your daughter knows that it’s normal for everyone to start their periods at different stages, be they early leaders or late bloomers.

When the first period arrives, you should be prepared for any type of reaction from your daughter. She may be joyous and excited or she might be anxious and scared – reactions will vary. Whatever her response – even if she seems unphased by the occasion – remember, it is a momentous moment in her life.

I asked one mother of three daughters if there was any “typical reaction” to the changes in a teenage girl’s body but she told me that every one of her daughters reacted differently.

“They were young teenage girls – obviously it wasn’t straightforward and they were each as unpredictable as the next,” she said. “The one thing I can say is that the second two certainly looked to their older sisters for advice so it was a good thing to have a word in their ear.”

Speaking to boys

Young boys can be just as curious about periods as girls are. They see advertisements on TV for sanitary products and they wonder what happens their sisters’ and friends’ bodies that does not happen to them.

Familiarising your sons with the terminology of periods and puberty can help them be more understanding toward their siblings and peers.

Both boys and girls will receive a sex-education talk in school which will include conversations about periods but this is not a replacement for an at-home talk. However, it can be an opportunity for a recap conversation so ask your kids if they have any further questions after their teacher talks to them in school.

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