Your daughter’s first period is often surrounded by a lot of curiosity and questions—whether she shares that with you or not! While your preteen or teen may be speculating about what menstruation will be like, as her parent you may be wondering about the best way to support her through this milestone.
Many of the women reading this post may still remember getting their period for the first time. For most of us, it was a memorable time of anticipation and uncertainty!
Most girls will get their first period between the ages of 12 and 13, but some get it as young as 10 or as old as 15. The more information that we can share with our daughter about starting her menstrual cycle, the more comfortable and prepared she will feel as her body goes through these changes.
Here are some ways that you can help your daughter prepare for her first period.
Communicate openly—and early
We want to do our best to help prepare our daughter for the emotional, social and practical aspects of menstruating. Every person has their own comfort level with these kinds of discussions; however, we believe that it is better for our kids to get information from us before they get it from their friends and the internet.
The earlier you begin talking about the changes to expect during puberty, the better. We never had one “sit-down-and-tell-all” conversation, but instead have had small, age-appropriate discussions over the years.
Of course, not everyone has a husband who is a pediatrician like I do, but the more that dads (and even brothers) are involved and educated, the more comfortable your daughter is likely to feel when the time comes.
There are many books on puberty and menstruation and some of these can be great conversation starters. Here are a few book recommendations for both younger girls and teens.
- The Care & Keeping of You 1: The Body Book for Younger Girls
- The Care & Keeping of You 2: The Body Book for Older Girls
- Celebrate Your Body 1: The Ultimate Puberty Book for Girls
- Celebrate Your Body 2: The Ultimate Puberty Book for Preteen and Teen Girls
There are also workshops for preteens and parents on topics such as puberty, sexuality, decision-making and more.
- The Chat: a 5-part online workshop for families of preteens 10-12 years old
It is important for your daughter to understand that menstruation is a completely natural process and is nothing to be ashamed about. She may have several questions, such as: What will her period look like? How long will her period last? What will menstrual cramps feel like?
You can start by explaining some basics: That her first few periods will most likely be light and it might not occur every month. Blood could appear pink, red or even brownish. She may also experience other symptoms, such as feeling tired or bloated, or having a headache or sore breasts.
Make a period prep kit
A period prep kit is a small bag that holds the stuff that your daughter might need when she gets her period. Many girls fear getting their first period at school or when they’re away from home. (That was my fear…and I did get my first period on a family vacation to Florida! One of my best friends got hers on grandma’s white bedsheets. We both survived, and your daughter would too!)
To make a period prep kit, buy a small zippered pouch and stock it with a couple of items that your daughter is most likely to need. This is something you can do for your child or together with her.
A D.I.Y. Period Prep Kit might include:
- A zippered bag (check out these: solid colored and patterned bags)
- Menstrual pads, panty liners, or tampons (many brands make teen and petite sizes)
- A change of underwear or period panties* (check out these: Bambody have the most discreet lining; Yoyi are made of super-soft bamboo fabric and come in a variety of colors; Hahan are made specifically for teens and come in a variety of colors and patterns)
- Cleansing wipes
- A plastic bag (to discreetly discard stained underwear, if necessary)
*If you aren’t familiar with period panties, they are underwear that has a built-in absorbent lining that will prevent blood from leaking onto clothing. See my favorite brands above.
If you are not the D.I.Y. type, there are plenty of “First Period Kits” to purchase such as this one.
Teach her how to use menstrual supplies
Just like we taught our child to use the toilet, we need to teach her how to use menstrual supplies, when to change them, and explain some basic hygiene.
It’s probably easier for her to start with pads or period panties before she tries tampons or a menstrual cup. While some girls may be ready for tampons or a menstrual cup quickly, they do require additional education and responsibility.
Generally menstrual pads and tampons will need to be changed every 3 to 6 hours, depending on the day of her cycle, so she should plan accordingly for school and other activities.
Some girls like to wear period panties when they are still unsure when to expect their next period. With a light flow, this may be all a teen needs. For others, it provides extra security along with the use of pads or tampons.
Encourage your daughter to experiment to find the products that she is most comfortable with.
Other helpful supplies
There are a few other supplies that you might want to stock at home to address some of the symptoms your daughter may experience around her cycles.
- Hot water bottle or heating patch for menstrual cramps
- Pimple patches for hormonal breakouts
- Pain relivers, such as cramp bark or ibuprofen, to relieve cramps and other period-related symptoms
- Breast oil for tender or sore breasts
Tracking her cycles
Tracking her menstrual cycle is a great way for your daughter to become attuned to her body’s monthly hormonal changes. It is also a great way to help her be prepared for her next cycle.
Although it may take 1-2 years for some girls to have “regular” periods, knowing when to expect her period often takes some of the anxiety away from wondering if she’ll getting it during an event or while on vacation.
A typical cycle is generally 28 days, but anything between 21 and 35 days from the start of one period to the start of the next is considered normal.
A simple notation on a paper calendar will be sufficient for many girls to track their cycle. For years I kept a moon calendar and found it fun to track my period with the cycles of the moon.
I now use the period tracking app which allows me to track my cycles and also look back at and see how they’ve changed over the months and years.
In the writing of this post, I reached out to my childhood best friends on our group chat. One of my friends recalled getting picked up from school and going out for ice cream with her mom to celebrate. Another shared about the “Goddess Party” she and her daughter are planning for when her daughter starts her period.
A few friends reminisced about which of our best friends was the last to get her period…and how we were all waiting for her to finally get it! (She was 14 and she said she felt like she was 100 compared to the rest of us; ironically, she went on to be the first of us to marry and have kids 😊 )
Another friend expressed that her daughter’s first cycle felt like a symbolic “passing-of-the torch.” As we begin to prepare our daughter to start menstruating, we may personally be entering into perimenopause or menopause ourselves—and closing this chapter of our own.
It is important for girls to understand that once they begin to menstruate, they are able to get pregnant if they are sexually active. So, if you thought you were “done” now that this conversation about puberty and menstruation was behind you, think again! It’s probably time to start educating yourself, and your child, about her options for contraception.