Puberty is a huge change for a child. It can be a change that your daughter finds very easy to get used to – if she is well prepared for it. And it can be change that disturbs her and makes her feel physically and emotionally insecure if she is unprepared for it.
All parents wants the journey into puberty to be a smooth one for their child – but they are unaware of what they must really do to prepare their daughters for puberty.
How should I talk to my daughter about periods or menstruation?
And when should I talk to my daughter about periods or menstruation?
Are commonly asked questions that I will try to answer in this article.
What is puberty?
Puberty is the process that changes the body of a child into the body of an adult. Puberty involves a series of physical and mental changes that turn a child into an adult who is capable of reproducing. The changes in puberty are brought about by hormones that are secreted by the brain and travel through the body to exert their action on the organs of reproduction.
What does puberty in a girl involve?
Puberty involves both physical and mental changes for a girl.
The physical changes during puberty involve –
- Increase in height
- Increase in weight
- Development of the breasts
- Appearance of pubic and axillary hair
- And the activation of the ovaries that results in the start of menstrual bleeding – also known as the periods.
The mental changes during puberty involve –
- An interest in boys
- An interest in clothes, dressing up and looking good
- Becoming closer to friends of the same age group than family
- Becoming quieter
- Mood swings
What happens in puberty?
During puberty a whole set of hormones that were previously not present in the child’s body – make their appearance
- The first hormone to appear is androgen that causes the appearance of pubic and axillary hair
- The next hormone to appear is GnRH which stimulates the production of FSH and LH
- FSH and LH act on the ovary to produce estrogen which causes the ovaries and uterus to mature and the breasts to develop
- Once the ovaries are mature and the periods start progesterone appears as well.
When do girls normally start their periods?
The age at which girls get their periods vary widely between one child and another.
Periods can start anywhere between 9 and 13 years of age and this whole age range is normal.
How will I know if my daughter is going into puberty?
You will know that puberty is close at hand when you start buying larger and larger shoes for your daughter at frequent intervals. The hands and the feet are the first to grow during puberty and the change in foot size must prepare you for puberty.
The first sign of puberty is the growth of the breasts
The second visible feature is the appearance of pubic hair. This is also usually accompanied by thickening of the skin and vaginal discharge – and this may result in your daughter complaining of irritation and itching in the private parts
During this time the body grows in height and width and fat is deposited in the breasts hips buttocks thighs and upper arms
Body odour and acne or pimples also make their appearance
When should I start talking to my daughter about puberty?
It is ideal to start talking to your daughter about puberty at the age of eight in typical cases. If however you observe that the breasts buds are making their appearance earlier – then start talking to your daughter – even earlier.
What should I say to my daughter about puberty?
When you talk to your daughter about puberty talk to your daughter about how babies are carried and delivered.
Since the primary function of the uterus and the menstrual cycle is to carry a baby and deliver it into the world – talking about babies is the easiest way to begin a conversation about periods.
Children are curious about where they came from right from the time they are 3 – 4 years old. And satisfying this curiosity is the easiest way to introduce children to puberty and menstruation.
This is what Mamatha Kamireddy an agroprenuer at www.hydrilla.in told her daughter before she started her periods
How should I prepare my son for my daughter’s periods?
It is not just your daughter who needs to be prepared for her periods. Your whole family needs to be prepared for your daughter’s periods including the men in the family.
Your son – or your daughter’s brother is likely to be her closest friend and ally and he needs to know about this massive change his sister will undergo in order to support her the way she needs.
If you do not introduce your son to the changes your daughter is going through and ask your daughter to keep quiet about her periods – it may lead to your children moving far apart during this phase when they need each others support the most.
This is what Ritwika Roy Mutsuddi – social media expert and blogger told her son before her daughter started her periods.
“I had imparted the knowledge of periods to my son even before my daughter knew about it. My son is older to my daughter by 5 years. I had talked to him about puberty and menstruation when he was around 12 years old. Watching the sanitary napkin ads on TV, he had curiously asked me about its use. I had decided to give him the correct knowledge about periods, sanitary napkins, hormonal changes. In doing so, I had also ensured that he is compassionate and understanding in those 5 days when his mother, classmates, friends, and in the future sister and later girlfriend/wife/daughter go through periods. Thus, when this year when my daughter had her first period he was extremely considerate and loving in helping her tackle with the big change in her life.”
Guidelines to follow when you talk to your daughter about puberty
- Always answer questions that your child asks. Children begin to have doubts and questions about various things linked to puberty – long before the attain puberty. These questions may be about “How are babies born” “What is this?” (a pad) “Can I wear this? (a bra). These questions must always be answered promptly – without laughing, feeling embarrassed or avoiding the question.
- Answer the question in a few simple matter of fact sentences. Do not panic and start explaining the entire process of sexual reproduction to a child who has a simple question like “What is a pad?” Just give a simple answer like – “When girls become big and become more and more like Mumma – they bleed for about 5 days a month. To prevent this blood from going all over the place and messing up clothes etc. we use this thing called pad which absorbs all the blood. So a pad is basically a diaper for blood.”
- When you notice the breast buds appearing on your daughter – give her a talk on good touch and bad touch. This is the time when girls are most prone to sexual abuse because they are unaware that they are changing. But sexual predators notice these changes and grab the opportunity to abuse their innocence.
- A gentle explanation of how the sperm and egg meet is sufficient. Children usually already know a good bit. Talking about it is just a way to clear the air and tell them that these topics can be discussed at home with you.
FAQ to prepare your daughter for her first period
What is a period?
A period is the process when a woman bleeds through her vagina for a certain number of days in every month.
Periods are a sign that a girl is turning into a woman
Periods mean that a girl is becoming capable of holding a baby in her body and giving birth to it.
How often do periods come?
Once the cycles are well established – periods happen once every month at around the same time of the month. However, when the periods first begin they may not be very regular and may happen at intervals longer than one month.
How long do periods last?
On an average every period lasts for 5 days. However the duration of the period may vary from one person to another. Anything between 3 to 7 days is normal.
Till what age do periods happen?
Periods usually continue until a woman is 50 years old.
How will you know if your period is about to start?
Periods usually come after a fixed interval of time – typically a month – and so marking your period off on a calendar is the best way to get an estimate of when your period will start
The breasts may feel painful when you touch them just before your periods start
You may also have a pain in the lower part of your abdomen just before your periods starts.
The above two are also signs for you to get prepared.
How much blood do you lose in each period?
Although a period goes on for several days and it seems like you lose a lot of blood – the actual amount of blood lost is just about 3-5 tablespoons.
Will losing blood during her period make your daughter weak?
Although the amount of blood lost is very small, periods do cause weakness over a period of time if the diet is neglected because it leads to iron deficiency anaemia.
The easiest way to avoid weakness is to take an iron tablet on every day that you bleed. That would mean that you are taking iron tablets for 5 days a month and making up for the blood you are losing on those days.
What are the important precautions to be taken during periods?
Once you start menstruating you have to use something to absorb or collect the blood coming out – in order to avoid staining your clothes and other things you sit on
There are various things that can be used for this purpose
Pads essentially soak up the blood after it comes out of the vagina. Tampons on the other hand absorb the blood inside the vagina. And cups collect the blood inside the vagina.
If you are comfortable with inserting something into your vagina – you can use cups or tampons.
If you are not – you can use pads. Cloth pads are far more environment friendly than disposable pads.
How often should a pad or tampon be changed?
It is a good idea to change any product used for menstrual hygiene every 4 -6 hours – depending on the amount of flow.
This keeps you comfortable. It also reduces the chances of infection.
How should pads and tampons be disposed of?
Disposable pads and tampons must be wrapped up in a newspaper and disposed in a dustbin. It is nice to wrap it well so that it does not make the people collecting the garbage feel dirty.
It is very important to remember never to flush pads or tampons down the toilet because it can block the toilet and cause explosions in septic tanks which can actually kill people.
What should you carry with you in preparation for your periods?
Carry 1 or 2 sanitary towels, a panty. If possible a change of clothes in school.
What to do if you have pain during periods?
Some slight amount of pain is normal during periods and there is no need to panic if you have pain.
- Eat something – Pain increases if you don’t eat anything – so even if you don’t feel like it – eat something.
- Move your body – Walking around and exercising also reduces pain – so don’t keep lying still in bed if you want the pain to go away.
What are the emotional changes that happen during periods?
When hormones rise and fall in your body during your periods – you may find your moods swinging. You may feel anxious and depressed at times and very soon that may give way to excitement and happiness. The mood swings are not something you need to worry about. And the easiest way to combat mood swings is – to eat a balanced diet, exercise and get enough sleep.
Strengthen your bond when your daughter gets her first period
The hormones that bring about the changes in your daughter’s body that bring on her periods – also change her brain. Coping with the physical and mental changes during puberty can be challenging and can make her feel lonely. Use the time leading up to her periods – to bond with her
- Buy some books on menstruation and sit with her and leaf through the book
- Watch some videos on menstruation with her
- As you read and watch videos together – talk about what it means to move into puberty – the challenges it brings along and how to cope with them
- Share the story of your first period. How you knew – and what you did when you got your periods
- Visit a doctor with your daughter to understand the various changes and how to stay healthy through them.
Periods are natural. Every girl must develop a healthy attitude toward her periods and for that to happen – it is extremely important for parents to give her a healthy perspective. Explain to your daughter that she must embrace this phase of her life without any embarrassment. And focus on coping with this change such that she remains physically and emotionally healthy.