Why is it kids seem to go from pudgy sass-makers to thinned-out hormonal sass-makers seemingly overnight? It happened to us and, after talking to several parent-friends, it happens to their families, too.
Having conversations about a changing body are awkward. We chose to have honest and open dialog with our daughter from a young age. We used proper names for body parts when she was really small as part of a safety regimen to protect against potential predation.
As she approached age 10 she started to thin out and get some curves. Her pediatrician said she’d likely start her period within a couple years. I had conversations with her and we prepared a small kit just in case Aunt Flow decided to show up unannounced at school one day. I talked about it all with a few 5th grade teacher friends, all of whom recommended what we had done with the kit and discussions.
But when it actually shows up everyone is caught off guard. Many mothers don’t remember the details of their first menstrual cycle, but it isn’t a typical discharge. It may be goopy and yellow for several months with no regularity. It may be spotting, then months before another discharge.
The most important thing is to make sure your daughter knows what is happening to her body is natural and normal. She won’t feel normal. She will be confused by the cramps and mood swings, trying to navigate how to deal with these changes and maintain civility with the family. My daughter’s pediatrician recommended we acknowledge when her period is near and give her grace in terms of attitude.
There are so many other things to consider when your daughter — especially your young daughter — begins menstruation. Getting used to disposable pads is quite uncomfortable. Tampons aren’t made for girls as young as age 10 and 11, but without them they are essentially barred from swimming during their period.
Here are a few things we’ve found that work well:
Ruby Love tween underwear
We ordered a 4-pack of underwear with the reusable pad inserts, and that seems to be the most comfortable solution for my daughter. One thing we learned the hard way is that there is no protection in the back, so if you sleep on your back there is great potential to leak on your sheets. We bought a pack of overnight pads to supplement in this area, which seems to be a good working solution.
Ruby Love swim bottoms
Attempting tampons at such a young age was painful and frustrating. The same company that gave us success with underwear also sells 1-piece and 2-piece separate swimwear. We invested in a swim bottom that has the same basic mechanics as the underwear. I say invested because it isn’t cheap! But being able to avoid telling a pre-teen to shove things into her vagina is worth the cost.
Discreet Period Kit
The first periods are not regular. They are unpredictable and terrible. Having a discreet kit of supplies makes the embarrassment minimal, especially at school when these kids are trying so hard not to call attention to their bodies. Her kit, which she kept in a small zipper pouch in her locker, included a change of underwear, some flushable wipes and panty liners. She also keeps a zipper hoodie in her locker throughout the school year, which can be tied around her waist and make her feel more comfortable.
Make it Normal
The most important thing bears repeating: Make sure your daughter knows what is happening is natural and normal. She won’t have answers, and if you’ve opened that line of communication she should feel comfortable — even if embarrassed or frustrated — asking you questions or telling you how she’s feeling. This is a great opportunity to share with her how you felt when you started your period or some of the experiences you have with it now. If you aren’t opening that line of communication, kids will find answers elsewhere.
This rite of passage has the potential to be a way for your to bond with your child as she steps into adolescence. Keep her talking and she’ll be more likely to come to you with other life issues she encounters as she navigates her teen years and beyond.