Hands up if you grew up reading Judy Blume’s young adult novel Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret? Chances are the protagonist’s first period is forever etched in your memory. Especially if you read the book around the time your own first period was due, and baulked at the idea of using the belted sanitary napkins Margaret endures. First published in 1970, this coming-of-age classic has since been updated to feature adhesive pads. But some pre-pubescent girls still experience confusion or anxiety leading up to their first menstrual cycle. Whether you are a mother or a father, use our hints to help your daughter have a positive menarche experience.
Revisit biology basics
Pre-teens approaching their first period should already be aware of the female reproductive system. But once your daughter’s menstruation starts, take the opportunity to revisit the topic. The bleeding phase is likely to be at the core of your conversation, but take time to map out the cycle’s follicular, ovulation and luteal phases for a full picture of how and why periods happen. Doing so also sets the stage for dialogue on contraceptives. Even if you believe your daughter is still a few years away from being sexually active, she is now capable of conceiving and therefore must know what constitutes safe sex. If you feel like you require back-up during your one-on-one, visit your local sex positive GP beforehand to pick up any of relevant pamphlets, and hand them over to your daughter after your first chat so she can reread them in her own time. While at your GP’s office, inform yourself about the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine so you can also inform your daughter. Many 12 to 13-year-old girls receive the vaccine in school, so be sure to investigate whether this is an option for for your daughter’s class.
Give her full props
Don’t wait until it is too late. Start putting together a gift pack now containing everything your daughter needs when menstruating:
- Modibodi underpants offer the best protection for the unexpected arrival of her periods, or as extra protection on heavier days. The Sensual Brief comes in girls sizes 8/10 and 10/12
- Applicator tampons
- Overnight pads
- A stylish, discreet purse (containing a clean pair of Modibodi and tampons) for your daughter to stash in her day bag ready for emergencies when away from home
- A hot water bottle and a packet of dandelion root tea to alleviate cramps
For extra tips, check out the menstruation tool kit Clementine Ford recently shared. We wholeheartedly agree with her list, especially with the chocolate part.
Get clued in on her cycle
Help your daughter understand her cycle by installing Clue on her smart phone (presuming she has one, and if not, use your own). The free, scientifically-backed application is available for iPhone and Android to track data including periods, PMS and moods. Notifications can be switched on to alert users when their next cycle is set to begin or when PMS is coming up. Best of all, Clue features a user-friendly design that is easy to navigate and free from gender-stereotypical colours and icons.
Honour her rite of passage
A first period party might be pushing it, but do commemorate your daughter’s coming-of-age with a shared activity. Depending on her interests, you might spend an afternoon at a hammam or spa, indulge in high tea or go for a nature hike and share a picnic lunch. What’s important is that you acknowledge what has occurred. Do not sugarcoat the experience of having a period, but reiterate that despite the blood and pain, having a period is an awesome affirmation of what that female body is capable of. Was your first period a positive or negative experience? Share your story in the comments, or tell us on Facebook and Twitter.