One or two decades before, talking about menstruation or periods at home, especially to younger children was taboo. In many homes, it was not a subject to talk and communicate unless you get the first period.
The present generation of kids is exposed to a lot of sensitive information through TV, movies, and social media. So it is very important they learn the right things from a very reliable source and they are prepared to face them with a positive mind. Especially when the message is from the parents, kids become confident in handling the problems.
Most parents feel talking to a daughter about menstruation is a difficult task. Sometimes, when you try to explain to the kids, either you feel stranded by the questions they threw or they knew things incorrectly. It is always best when you talk about this to your child before 10 yrs. And make sure you are well prepared and calm to answer their questions.
When you try to talk to your daughter, make sure you prepare/have ideas on these topics.
- You are clear and well prepared to explain them and can handle their doubts.
- Explain how her body changes
- Menstruation process- monthly cycle.
- Cleanliness and hygiene need to be followed.
- What to expect during menstruation
- Healthy diet
When to talk?
Sometimes kids themselves open this topic. Most of the time it comes unintentionally, seeing you buy sanitary products from a store or seeing you use them. Never shy to explain what it is, no matter how old she is. If you think she is too young, explain her in simple words. And most importantly assure her that it is normal for every woman to experience this every month. Make sure you make them confident and don’t scare or make them uncomfortable.
But on the other hand, if your little darling is a little older or did not initiate any of the conversations about the topic, then it is your turn to kick-start the discussion. Make sure the conversation is light and casual. It is very important that you talk about this topic before your kid is 10 years old. And there are some body changes you can notice when your kid is nearing puberty. Some physical changes are,
- Almost after 2 years before puberty, your daughter begins to develop breasts.
- Remember when you first got your period? Most likely your daughter also can attain puberty at the same time. Yes, she has your DNA.
- Public hair growing in her labia (the folds of skin surrounding the vagina) and under her arms.
Plan how to talk
Talking to your kid needs planning and preparation. Yes! Because you are explaining something which is important, and have them well prepared and informed beforehand. Make the conversation light, simple and informative. Don’t indulge the fear or pain you have, which can make them worry or make them look fearful. So to make your conversation interesting, prepare what to explain, how to face the first period, how to take care of herself, hygiene, and available options.
Make sure you have answers to their questions. If you feel uncomfortable talking to your child about menstruation, don’t hesitate to ask for help from someone your daughter is more comfortable in the family. If there is no one to talk take the help of your child’s doctor.
What is menstruation?
Before discussing with your child, let’s make sure you recollect/know the science behind menstruation.
Menstruation is the discharge of blood from the inner lining (endometrium wall) of the uterus through the vagina. This happens every month for all women and the bleeding can last almost 3-7 days. From the thousands of egg present in the two ovaries, every month an egg is released to the fallopian tube. The egg travels back to the uterus and in the meantime, the uterus walls prepare to thicken to support the egg and help in fertilization (Pregnancy). If the egg is not fertilized which means not pregnant, then the thick wall formed starts to shed through the vagina. This stage of reddish fluid with blood discharge is known as menstruation.
The first day of the bleeding is the first day of the menstrual period and the first day of the cycle which ends on the first day of her next period.
The average cycle is 21-31 days for women and it may vary anywhere between 21-45 days for young girls.
Most children start their first periods between 10-13 years and 8-15 years is also considered normal.
Make this topic and discussion age appropriate when discussing with your kids. If you plan to open the talk with younger children who are too young to understand the uterus and bleeding, explain in simple terms.
Some educators or children physicians explain it in a simpler and more understandable way. The uterus prepares itself to grow as we grow from a child to a woman. As it grows, it tries to form a soft cushion made of water, soft tissues, and little amount of blood. Every month when there is no baby growing inside, the uterus tries to discharge the cushion out through the vagina. This discharge though is red/black/brown and resembles blood but it’s full of water with little amount of blood, lesser than half a cup.
If the child is resistant to talking to you about this or about the body changes, there are lots of books available to help them understand the process. Read together or ask them to read those books to make them more comfortable.
What to do during the actual period?
When you explain the terms of the period/ menstrual cycle to your daughter, make sure you explain and give the confidence in how to face her first period.
Explain to her beforehand about tampons, pads, and menstrual cups. Make sure you help her set up a box to handle her period with ease. Put on some pads and instructions on how to use them in the box. Explain to her that it would be her first kit when she finds herself bleeding for the first time when you are away from her. Help her to fix herself when she finds some blood in her underwear or in her dress. Also, advise her whom to reach out to when in school and ask for help. Assure her this is all common and nothing to worry about or feel ashamed to talk about.
When she gets her first period, help her how to track this every month to understand her flow and her body. There are many tracking apps unlike in the olden days we used calendars to count the days.
Guide them on how to handle the leakage problem or hormone changes and ask them to communicate what they face or feel. Family is the first step to sharing these feelings and problems, so make sure to communicate the same to your partner. So that when your child experiences mood swings because of changing hormones and experiences tiredness, their dads can understand and handle them better. If your child gets cramps and tiredness, suggest to them some hot pads or medication to help relieve the pain. Feed them the right food and help them take more iron supplement foods to gain their strength.
Most of the schools help the kids know about menstruation and how to handle them.
Once you notice the visible signs in your child’s body, you can expect her cycle to begin soon within a year. So guide her through the journey and make sure she doesn’t get panicked or fear to face this.
Earn the trust of your child, give your shoulders and ears to them always, and let them feel the warmth that you are always there to listen.