How To Talk To Your Daughter About Her PeriodAugust 9th, 2013 | Posted by in Parenting
If your Facebook feed is anything like mine, you’re seeing a lot of buzz about “Camp Gyno,” a provocative YouTube sensation promoting a new “feminine hygiene product” delivery service. The video has been viewed more than 5 million times and has attracted national media attention.
Some find the ad over the top, but many find it funny and empowering. Whatever your thoughts about it, it’s certainly struck a chord and sparking discussion about how we talk about menstruation — as grown women and with our daughters. The star of the video goes from “random loser” at summer camp to a “queen bee” after getting “The Red Badge of Courage.” It’s certainly a change from women in white pants riding horses on the beach.
Today, as some colleagues and I watched the video, we laughed about the euphemisms we use, from “Aunt Flo” to “a visit from a friend.” We shared stories about starting our periods and how our mothers approached The Talk. (I remember a whole series of complicated human anatomy transparencies in the Encyclopedia Britannica. My mom, bless her heart, might have over-prepared).
Here are some thoughts about “The Talk” based on my own experiences, both as a former 8-year-old girl and as a mom of a now 21-year-old:
Don’t wait to have “The Talk.” Start talking about her body, in age-appropriate ways, early and often. I listened for cues from my daughter and watched for teachable moments. If she asked a question, I answered with a little information. If she was satisfied, I left it alone till next time, but if she followed up with the next logical question, I knew she was ready for more.
Make sure you understand how everything works. Ask your family doctor, your child’s pediatrician, or your gynecologist for sources of credible information so you can brush up on the facts. If your child asks you a question that you can’t answer, tell her you’ll find the answer. Or look it up together.
Ask as much as you tell. Start by finding out what she already knows. Learn what her friends may have told her. That way, you can correct misinformation and allay anxieties. Find out what questions she has, what worries her about this life event.
I know it’s hard to think of your baby growing up, but don’t wait too long. While most girls start their period around ages 12-14 (or later), some girls start as young as 10, a few even 8. You don’t want your child in a scary and potentially embarrassing situation if you can help it.
Find books and other resources designed just for her. Ask your friends, your child’s pediatrician or your gynecologist for suggestions. Disney has developed some video resources in collaboration with one of the makers of tampons and pads. Manufacturers also offer informational websites for girls. Your child’s school may have resources (especially if you are lucky enough to have a school nurse). The American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology offers info sheets for girls on “Your First Period” and “Your Changing Body” that may be helpful for her — and for you. I have also seen several online recommendations for “The Care and Keeping of You” by American Girl.
Be positive. We know that having your period is not exactly fun, but please don’t set your daughter’s expectations for “The Curse.” Let her know that while menstruation is a personal and private thing, it is normal, an exciting sign that she’s growing up and nothing to be ashamed of. Emphasize that everyone’s body is different – girls get their periods at different ages, some girls have cramps but others don’t, and so on. (I also told my daughter that this is something that is important for her friends to learn about from their own moms so she shouldn’t talk about it at school — although I have no illusion that she really listened to me on that point).
If you have any questions, your child’s pediatrician will be happy to answer them. Encourage your daughter to ask any questions she might have at her next doctor’s visit.
Your daughter may not embrace this milestone as a “Red Badge of Courage,” but with your help, getting her first period can be a positive experience, one that she meets prepared and with confidence.