How we handle our children’s first period defines a long journey ahead of them. Maybe you told your daughter what to expect or you have been waiting for the right time; in either case, she will need you to be there for her when she gets her first period. No matter how prepared she might be for what’s coming, talking about menstruation, comforting and helping her through her first cycle will teach her not to feel ashamed of menstruation and lay a foundation for a period-positive future. So here are eight dos and don’ts curated by the team of Menstrupedia to make sure that you’re prepared to handle your daughter’s first period:
Confront the menarche. Be there when your daughter gets her first period. If you are outside, head home or pick her up from where she is without creating disturbance. When she reveals what has happened, don’t express astonishment or disappointment. Instead, begin by letting her know that everything is alright, and help her put on a sanitary pad. Later, sit her down and talk to her, calmly. Explain what periods are, if she is not sufficiently aware, in a simple, efficient way. You can use the Menstrupedia Comic to explain complex ideas, simply using visuals. Make sure that she is comfortable and beginning to handle it well. In fact, gifting her a Menstrupedia Comic before she gets her first period, or on the day of her first period would ensure that she discovers corrects information about it and knows everything about taking care of herself in the coming months.
Listen to her. Ask her about her concerns or fears, how it happened, or anything else she may want to let you know. Allow her to share whether she is experiencing pains, irritation or mood swings. Find solutions to minor discomforts by offering her food or water, hot water bag for pains, ice-cream for upliftment etc. Listening to her lets her know that you are approachable and are there to fulfill her needs. It will also remove any sense of nervousness that she might be going through.
Be warm, reassuring and accepting. Be mature about any emotional response she might give you. It is likely for her to be scared or shocked, break down, or be traumatised by the sudden change—especially if she is not fully informed or prepared. On the other hand, she might be able to take it extremely well or even be happy about finally getting her period. Know that all these reactions are equally valid, and each adolescent has her own way of adapting. Be patient, and assure her that it’s okay to feel the way she does. Mothers, you can also try to enliven the atmosphere by sharing your own menarche story.
Don’t dramatise. Do not react in extremes. Try not to spread the word all around the place that your daughter has “become a woman!” too soon, or alternatively, stress on how early it is, or how terrible this is going to be for you. Your daughter is already figuring her way through a new and unfamiliar phase that has just begun, and is probably already confused or upset about it. Good mentorship from you can encourage her to accept it better, whereas any form of exaggeration will only be harmful.
Avoid overwhelming her with demands. Do not impose taboos and restrictions on her. Avoid expecting her to drastically change her lifestyle and behaviour to match teenage stereotypes. Do not prohibit her from engaging in physical activity or sports. Let her know that it might take time to get used to and she might have to be careful until she does, but reassure her that she can still continue to do everything that she used to.
Don’t focus too much on period problems. Make conversations around her first period less scary, especially when they are about cramps, pains, health issues, side-effects or allergies, pre-menstrual syndrome, leaks etc. It is good to make her aware, but ensure that she can view periods in a realistic way, and not as something that will only bring her bad experiences. Normalise periods as much as you can, and establish that it is a natural, healthy part of growing up.
Encourage body positivity. Clear out any issues or insecurities she may begin to have about her body and the changes that it is undergoing. Make her feel valued and beautiful. Avoid pointing out weight changes or differences in her appearance in ways that might make her feel uncomfortable with herself. Urge others around her to remember the same. Reinforce actions that make her happy with her growth, and with the body she inhabits. Let her know that she does not have to be a particular way to be beautiful, because she already is.
Celebrate. Last, but not the least, relieve her of her hard day by celebrating. Let people in the family know, and celebrate in small ways that make her happy. You can gift her a period kit, take her on a fun trip to the sanitary pad aisle of a store and familiarise her with the products, watch a movie, throw her a small party or even something as simple as a hug will do. This shows that even if it has been slightly unpleasant so far, periods can be a welcome transition to a remarkable time in her life.
(Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of YourStory.)