Are you ready for your daughter’s first period? Yeah, me neither. You would think I’d be comfortable with periods by now. I grew up in a house with a mother and two sisters that had periods. I’ve had girlfriends with periods, and my wife goes through it each month. Yes, I’ve made and continue to make visits to the store to buy maxi pads and liners. I’ve been doing this for at least the last 13 years and yet, there’s still a tinge of awkwardness everytime I go thru the checkout line. Not to mention, the occasional lame joke from a bystander or the cashier: “are these for you (raised eyebrow and smirk)?” or “that time of the month, huh (raised eyebrow and smirk)?”
Mentally, I’m an eighth grader when it comes to periods. But now I have a daughter and, well, it’s time for me to grow up. To be fair, my daughter is six years old, so I have some time. However, a number of my close friends have daughters who have experienced their first period in the last year. Time flies! It feels like I just held those babies in my arms yesterday! So, I started to think about it: am I ready for my daughter’s first period? What type of experience will she have? What can I do to make sure she is prepared for her first period? What can I do to make sure I AM ready for her first period? As I think about it, there are probably three main things I should focus on:
- Understanding the physiology of the menstrual cycle.
- Understanding how I can help her with her first period.
- Understanding the various product options.
I don’t know about you, but I immediately did a Google search, because if it’s on the internet, it must be true, right? Of course, you can read articles from a medical journal, but I prefer trusted websites like WebMD and womenshealth.gov to make sure I understand the underlying science.
Tips for Helping
I scrubbed the internet and talked to my friends looking for tips on how I might help my daughter when she has her first period. The truth is, like everything else in life, everyone has an opinion or advice (and often they’re contradictory). Do you remember when you became a parent for the first time? If you are anything like me (really my wife), you read lots of books, asked lots of questions of other people and sometimes (a lot of the time) received unsolicited advice about everything: feeding, sleep training, potty training, discipline, etc. Nine out of ten times, the information was well-intentioned, but didn’t work. Why? Because context matters…each child is different, each situation is different. I’ve learned to trust my instincts, and I’ll probably do the same when my daughter has her first period. I’ve been building social capital with my daughter, and I’ll continue to do so. Life is a relationship business, and good, healthy relationships make 90% of life bearable.
That being said, the following tips (courtesy of Christina Boyes at The Good Men Project) did resonate with me:
Do Nothing. A period is a big change in a girl’s life, and it’s awkward enough without any extra emphasis. Don’t plan a period party, give a special piece of jewelry, or take her out on a date night to celebrate menstruation.
Don’t freak out. You’re probably not ready for this (most parents are not). Make sure you’ve had “the talk” by the time she’s nine, and keep a basket on hand with a few samples of different brands of pads and tampons, a bottle of water to help her rehydrate, and a 2-pack of Advil in case her cramps are unbearable.
Make it clear she can talk to you about it. Remember tip #2. Lean in…learn about periods. Sit down with a female friend or two well before the day arrives, and ask them what it’s like. A refresher course can fill you in on changes from the days your mom or sister went through it.
Get help. If you have a female friend who is like an aunt to your daughter, ask her if she’d be willing to help her through the first cycle or two with shopping trips and tips — trust me, shopping for pads with your Dad is embarrassing, no matter how great your relationship.
Schedule an appointment with the gynecologist. Periods come with baggage, and you need to know that your daughter is 100% healthy. Take her to the gynecologist, but don’t make a big deal of it. She’ll have an exam, and she’ll find out more about how to take care of herself.
I found this very useful site, Sex Ed Rescue (don’t let the name ruin you). They have a pretty comprehensive breakdown of the various product types and tips for using each product.
I hope this is helpful…a little science, a couple of tips and some product suggestions. I’ll leave you with this parting note. On the eve of the birth of my first child, I had an exchange with someone that went something like this:
- Bob: “are you ready?”
- Me: “as ready as I’m going to be…”
- Bob: “ready or not, here it comes!”
“It” turned out to be a girl and six years later here I am…still parenting, learning every day. I think the first-period experience will be similar to the parenthood journey. It won’t be perfect, but your daughter doesn’t want or need you to be perfect. Just be what she wants…be what she needs.