By Elizabeth Chapman
Elizabeth Chapman, mother of three teenage daughters, gives the low down of how to approach that first period talk.
If your tween has started being grumpy for no apparent reason, answering back, or crying and doing a lot of extra sleeping, it’s a sign that their hormones have really kicked in and they’re in the early stages of puberty. And if you haven’t had a conversation about periods with your tween yet, then you need to. Otherwise they will hear about it on the playground and you have no control over what they are told.
Periods can start anytime between 8-14yo, with the average age being 12. Just keep it light and matter-of-fact. You can add lots of little conversations into everyday situations to build on the ‘period talk’. The first signs can come long before the moods come and include body odour (particularly underarms), break-outs or tiny spots on their face. Small breast buds develop and pubic hair starts growing. Start by teaching proper body hygiene. Encourage them to shower daily, focusing on their face, underarms and vulva.
You may notice a light discharge on your tweens underwear (clear or white). This usually occurs around ovulation and your tweens body may start cycling for 3 to 12 months before their first actual ‘blood discharge’ period. This is all normal. Casually point it out to them. And mood changes, headaches and tummy cramps (PMS) may accompany this cycling, so encourage your tween to take note of the pattern.
An easy way to introduce sanitary items to the conversation is to leave a box of tampons, or a pad or your menstrual cup out and let the questions come. And then make a ‘First Period Survival Kit’ together. This is essential! You’ll need one for home and one for the school bag. A pencil case or small make-up bag will do the trick and should include a spare pair of underwear, a pad (disposable or cloth) or a pair of period underwear. Talk about how to use the products and go through what they would do if they got their first period at school or a friend’s place or while you were at work or away.
Make sure you cover all the options when talking to your tween about sanitary products and allow them to own their period by choosing the products they want to use. Modern cloth pads and period underwear are brilliant for younger tweens and offer sustainable options that will save a fortune in the long term. Menstrual cups are suitable or teens who are more confident with their period and can take a few cycles to master.
Remember to talk to your tween about periods in a factual and positive environment, as this will build confidence and normalises their attitude towards menstruating and their changing body.
Elizabeth is a registered nurse and director of Lunette Menstrual Cups Australia.
A mother to three sporty teenage daughters, she has a passion not only for women’s health but also to help and inspire other women to be the best that they can be – all month, every month!
The Lunette Menstrual Cup and Sustainable Period Project fit perfectly into this vision.