Ah, the first talk about her period. While moms take many different approaches to conquer such a monumental—and universally awkward—rite of passage topic, there is one fact on which they all agree: timing is crucial.
In many Birmingham area elementary schools, the topic of menstruation and puberty is addressed via letter from the school nurse at the start of the 5th grade year.
So the first question you have to ask yourself is this: would you rather she hear about it in hushed whispers from friends, in a cold, clinical perspective from healthcare staff employed by the school, or from you, the most comforting, trusted woman in her life?
Once you’ve braced yourself to have “the talk,” now what?
First, don’t go it alone. While your insights and advice are invaluable as a mother, don’t dismiss what a father can add to the conversation.
This is a critical time for dads to step up and speak candidly with their daughters, addressing the physical and hormonal changes that also are impacting boys at this stage. Dads, you are the main man in your little girl’s life—don’t underestimate it. Speak openly with her about your expectations for what healthy social interactions between boys and girls should look like at this stage. Lay out the do’s, the don’ts, the consequences . . . all of it. Above all, let her know she’s beautiful and worthy and, that you love her, no matter what. Always.
Moms, if you haven’t already taken her shopping for a training bra, now is a good time to consider it. The experience can give you an easier way to downshift into the heavier topics and other physical changes she will soon experience, if she hasn’t already.
Share with her your own care regimen, from razors to tampons and everything in between. However embarrassing it feels, know that you are investing in building her sense of self-worth and self-confidence. Take as much time as her curiosity requires.
If you’re so inclined and she will hear you out, tell her about your own experiences with puberty and menstruation. This may sound horrifying and like a TMI disaster-in-the-making. On the contrary: it humanizes you, and acts as a binding agent before the emotional upheaval of the teen years really begins in earnest.
Supplement this new chapter in mom-daughter relations with trusted materials that are likely already familiar to her. Just one example is from the widely popular American Girl series, which includes a book called The Care and Keeping of You: The Body Book for Younger Girls. Presented in an approachable format and age-appropriate tone, the series can be an ideal companion piece to your ongoing dialogue.
Remember: don’t take yourself too seriously. After all, you weren’t the only one who felt nervous wearing white jeans to school.
Keep it honest. Keep it real.
She’ll be just fine. And so will you.