YOUR daughter’s first period can be exciting and nerve-wracking at the same time. Young girls can get their periods as early as 9 years old and as late as 18 years old. Experts share tips on how you, as a parent, can help your daughter navigate this new chapter in her life.
PREPARING YOUR CHILD
It is important that you gather enough information to share with your child. You can buy books, download videos and get articles on the subject to help you.
“As a parent, be prepared to answer all the questions your child may have as honestly as possible and seek help where you are not able to answer. The school curriculum these days teaches children about the female reproductive system and discussing with your child what she learnt from school can be a good departure point for parents who do not know how to handle their child’s first period,” says social worker Nthabiseng Madikgetla.
“It may be uncomfortable for your child to talk to you about this matter, especially if it is something you have never talked about before. Your child may be quiet at first as you talk and it is okay. Be patient with her and allow her time to adjust and get comfortable. Remember that you will not know everything at this time, but make sure that you are ready to cover the basics,” she adds.
If you are a male parent, it may help to get a female that your daughter is comfortable with to address some of her concerns regarding the issue. However, your daughter needs to know that you support her and that she can still talk to you about anything that goes on in her life.
TACKLING THE ISSUE
Ideally, it would be best if you and the child talk about the menstrual period before it actually starts. It takes away the anxiety and makes the discussion less tense for you and your child once the menstrual cycle starts.
The question would then be: when do you start talking? The answer is: as soon as your child begins to ask questions. “Girls from as early as 5 years old see their mother’s pads when they help to purchase or unpack the groceries. It is an opportunity to tackle the issue when your child asks ‘Mommy what is this?’ Respond in an age-appropriate manner that hints to the child that one day they will be old enough to use this as well,” says Nthabiseng.
When your child has their first period, it is important to let them know that there is nothing wrong with them. Explain what it means to them as young females. This is also the time to talk to your child about sexual intercourse and pregnancy.
WHAT TO EXPECT
You can expect your child to be either afraid or excited. These are some of the emotions you need to help your child through. “Your child may be confused, especially if the period came too early for her. Your role as a parent is to educate and empower her so that the confusion is cleared.
"You may also realise that your child knows more than you thought she does and this is okay because children these days have access to information. Your role would be to help them separate the myths from facts,” says Nthabiseng.
Educate your daughter on how to keep clean during her period and how to handle accidental flows. Explain to her that she does not need any special product to wash, because plain warm water is safe to use. Also explain the importance of changing the pad or tampon every four to six hours to avoid health risks.
There are a lot of brands of pads and tampons available in the market for your child to choose from. Help her choose a product that will give her protection against leakage, maximum comfort and one that is suitable for her menstrual flow.