A question many girls who have not started menstruating (getting their period) wonder about is: “When will I get it?”
Since school takes up so much of girls’ daily lives, girls frequently get their first menstrual cycle while at school. Some girls are well prepared for this, and the transition to this normal life event comes with no surprises. Other girls are not prepared. Their period arrives and they don’t have any supplies, medications or spare clothes to manage the situation.
The big question is this, “How can we, as parents and caregivers, prepare our daughters for this moment? How can we prepare them for this expected event?”
As a new school year approaches, here are 7 tips you can use to make sure your daughter is prepared for her first period.
- Be sure your teen knows what menstruation is.
Talk with them about why periods happen, body changes that help girls to know when periods may start, and how to manage them. Since teens learn about puberty and menstruation from many sources (school, friends, siblings, etc.), ask what they already know. You can then focus on filling in information gaps, correcting myths, and answering their questions or concerns. This will help make the discussion conversational, rather than like a lecture.
- Explain the physical feelings that may happen just before or during her period.
Every girl is different. Some may have new physical feelings that happened just before or during their period. These include cramps, headaches, breast tenderness, feeling more tired, and/or experiencing changes in mood or appetite. Other girls may not have any of these symptoms. Part of being prepared is knowing what to expect, so talk about these symptoms and about what can be done to make them better.
- Emphasize that these changes are normal!
Girls your daughter’s age will be experiencing many of these same things. Encourage your daughter to talk with her friends, siblings, cousins, and others about what she is experiencing. Sometimes it is easier for teens to relate to people their age, and she should feel confident to do so! Besides, during the teen years young people naturally begin to seek information from many places and try to make sense of it. Helping her learn about menstruation from others around her is developmentally appropriate.
- Show your teen how to properly use sanitary napkins, such as pads.
This is important because if you’re not there, she’ll know what to do. A great resource on how to teach your teen how to use pads and tampons can read on VeryWellFamily.com. How to teach your daughter to use a pad can be read here, and tips for tweens using tampons for the first time can be read here.
- Help your teen learn to track her period.
For the first few years, periods are often not predictable. For some girls, periods come at predictable times but the range of normal is wide. Periods may come every 21 days or up to every 45 days; both are considered normal! For some people, periods may last 1 day, while for other people they may last up to 7 days. It is therefore important to teach your teen to track their periods so they learn what is normal pattern for them. It also helps to ease the stress of wondering when the next period may come!
- Help your teen to advocate for herself in school when she needs to take care of her hygiene or physical symptoms.
In middle and high school, it can be hard to get a pass to go to the bathroom. Ask your teen to think of strategies she can use if she thinks her period has come on and she needs to go to the bathroom to check. Can she ask for a bathroom pass in the middle of class? Can she talk to her teacher(s) privately before class? What if she doesn’t have pads, tampons, or other sanitary products when her period starts? Make sure she knows who she can contact to get supplies or extra clothes (like the school nurse).
- Have your teen make a ‘Period Kit’.
It’s a good idea for all tween/teen girls to keep extra supplies in their backpacks or lockers, just in case. Their ‘Period Kit’ should include pads (or tampons or menstrual cups), a change of underwear, extra pants, and medication for cramps or headaches.
Even though almost every girl will get her first period in middle or high school, getting your period in school can be embarrassing to a tween/teen. Giving them information to prepare for this reality can increase their confidence and leave them feeling ready rather than anxious. By prepping your teen ahead of time, they’ll know that there is no reason to worry when their period begins, because when it does, they’ll be ready.
Teens might also get their period during a sleepover at a friends’ house! Click HERE to read an article by the experts of Parents Are T.A.L.K.I.N.G. on how parents who are hosting a sleepover or sending their teen to a sleepover can help teens manage their period away from home.