Not sure what to say to your daughter when she gets her first period? Here’s what you can tell your daughter before or even after her first menstrual cycle.
My Daughter Got Her First Period. Now What?
Has your daughter started her first period, and you don’t know what to do? No worries! Hopefully this will help you explain what to expect and how to manage her period.
When to Tell Your Daughter about Periods
There’s no real absolute timing when it comes to telling your daughter about periods.
Some parents like to talk to their kids about periods when they start to have questions about their body. Young kids can understand some basic biology around 3 or 4 years old. While you might not tell a preschooler about alllll of the details, it’s totally okay to mention the names of body parts and how girls’ bodies go through some changes that boys’ bodies do not.
Around ages 3-8, kids are more aware of what your doing, and may notice when you buy pads or tampons or use them yourself. This is another time some parents talk to their kids about periods.
Other parents like to wait until their kids are old enough to have a conversation about it, around ages 8-10. Since that’s typically when girls start to experience changes thanks to puberty, it’s not a bad time to mention how a period works and what to expect.
Many parents wait until their daughter gets her period, which can be anywhere between ages 10-15. The average age is usually 12, but believe it or not, some girls can get it when they’re 9(me!). Waiting until this point might seem too late, but if you have been talking about basic biology with your daughter and she knows she can come to you with questions, you can expand on what she may already know.
Explaining things when your daughter is already a teen might be too late. At that point, she most likely learned about a menstrual cycle in health class or from friends. Still, it’d be a good idea to talk with her to clear some things up or to expand on what she may already know.
How to Explain a Period to Your Daughter
Not sure how to explain a period besides that there’s blood that comes every month? Here is what you can discuss:
- A period starts when there are changes in hormones in the body, around what’s called puberty. Puberty is when the body is preparing to become an adult human.
- Hormones called estrogen and progesterone are released by the ovaries. The ovaries are small glands inside the female body that hold the eggs that could some day become babies. Estrogen and progesterone are two very important hormones needed for making a baby inside the body.
- The hormones make the lining of the uterus (where babies can grow) build up, getting ready for a fertilized egg to attach and become a baby. They also prepare the eggs to leave the ovaries to travel to the fallopian tubes, where they can possibly meet sperm and then become fertilized. That egg then travels to the uterus.
- If the egg is not fertilized or is not ready to implant to become a baby, the lining in the uterus breaks down and starts to bleed. The blood exits through the cervix and then through the vagina.
- This whole process takes about a month to happen, but the period itself can last 3-5 days, sometimes shorter sometimes longer.
Does a Period Hurt?
Your daughter may ask about whether or not a periods hurts. While you’re tempted to tell her it’s some of the worst pain she may ever experience in her life (speaking from my experience…), you can tell her this:
Periods may hurt. Inside of the body, when the uterus figures out that there will be no baby, it begins to squeeze or contract to help get the lining out. Since it’s a muscle, it’s made to do that. At the same time, the cervix opens a little to let the blood from the lining out.
Both of these things happening may cause some pain, what women call cramps, in your pelvis or lower back. Most of the time, cramps happen right before a period in the pelvis, or they can happen as period blood shows up. They can last for a few minutes, a few hours, or even a whole day. They can come and go, especially if you’re moving around.
What Helps Relieve Cramps
Since cramps can be painful (like you can’t move out of the fetal position painful at times…), you’ll want to discuss ways she can help relieve cramps, such as:
- taking an over the counter pain reliever
- resting with your feet elevated
- light exercise, like walking or yoga
- taking a hot bath
- using a heating pad on your pelvis or lower back
- drinking more water, to help relieve bloating that can make cramps worse
- drinking herbal tea, like chamomile
Things to Tell Your Daughter about Her First Period
Since your daughter’s first period will be most likely different from the rest, here are some things to tell her:
- It’s nothing to be ashamed of. It’s a part of becoming an adult.
- If she has any questions, she can come to you at any time.
- The first period will probably be pretty light and pretty short.
- The color of the blood may not be red like blood, but more like a brownish color. It’s normal. This can change with age, activity level, health status, etc.
- After the first period, periods can last up to 5 days, but they can be longer and they can be shorter. Sometimes they can be delayed, and sometimes they start early. Just like with the color, the length can vary dependent on age, activity level, health status, etc.
- Bleeding or discharge may happen midcycle too. It’s important to note that as cycles are tracked (see below).
Products to Use for a Period
Most young girls will start with disposable pads for their first few periods. Depending on age, those tend to be the easiest to manage, especially in school.
As your daughter gets older, she may want to try other period products, such as:
- reusable pads, like these pads from Pink Lemonade
- menstrual cups
- period underwear
- menstrual disks
For young girls, a mix of disposable pads and period underwear might be the easiest to manage in school. The pads can be changed often and the period underwear can catch any leaks.
A small pouch with some extra pads or products and an extra pair of underwear would be perfect for school. You might also want to pack an extra outfit just in case, one that would fit in a backpack.
How to Track Periods
Another important thing to share with your daughter is how to track her periods.
Why is it important to track periods? It’s important to track periods:
- to keep track of a period’s duration
- to keep track of time between periods
- to keep track of period-related symptoms
- to keep tabs on your health as a woman
- to know when you’re going to ovulate
Your daughter may not be thinking about some of these things now, but they may become important as she gets older.
An easy way to track is to use a calendar. Mark down the first day of the period. When the period ends, mark that day as well. If you want to try to predict the next period, count 28 days from the first day of the period and mark that day.
Probably the easiest way to track a period is to use an app on a phone or tablet. Apps can easily predict when your next period will be using an average of the days between your periods.
I personally use Period Tracker- Period Calendar Ovulation Tracker by Simple Design Ltd. in the Google Play store. It’s free and easy to use.
How to Manage PMS Mood Swings
Unfortunately, all of this fun stuff can come with mood swings, before, during, and after. While we adults have figured out a way to manage these mood swings (or maybe even consulted a doctor about them), this is unchartered territory for young girls.
Being that the shifts in hormones are quite new to your daughter, the behavior that happens from it can be startling for both you and your daughter. One moment she may be sweet, the next she is in a rage over what seems to be nothing. Another moment she is happy as pie, the next moment she is sobbing.
What can you do? Besides helping her to relieve her physical symptoms of her period, you can:
- teach her to recognize the shifts in her mood
- help her find ways to relax and regroup
- give her space
- encourage her to find things that make her feel better, like music, a comfy blanket, reading a good book
- provide healthy snacks and water or tea
- encourage some light exercise, like a walk
- give her time to rest
Out of all of these things, I’d say ‘teaching her to recognize the shifts in her mood’ is the most important. This may take some coaching from you, but it’ll give her the chance to recognize how she’s feeling and make adjustments. A simple and calm “I think you need a minute to think” can be said when your child’s mood swings to encourage your child to step away and do something that makes her feel balanced again. It might be minutes, or it might even be hours, but it gives your child a chance to move away from the moment instead of making it more stressful.
Another good reason to do this is that it gives your daughter a good indication to check her calendar or app to see where she is in her cycle so she can be prepared.
Note: Do not audibly announce that your daughter probably has her period every time she has a mood swing. Don’t forget: girls at this age go through so many changes and usually have a lot going on in school, etc., so there will be mood swings that are caused by stress too. This is why teaching kids to recognize a change in their behavior can play an important role in their development into adults.
What Tips Would You Share with Your Daughter?
I hope that these tips help you when talking to your daughter about her period.
Did I miss anything? What would you tell your daughter when she gets her first period? Let me know in the comments!
And of course, feel free to ask questions as well!