My Daughter’s Getting Her Period. How Much Do I Help?

Dear Mamas,

My daughter (almost 11) is showing definite signs of puberty – budding breasts, occasional acne and underarm hair. I feel that she is going to start her period soon. We have talked about it so she does not become alarmed and I have told her who to go to at school if it happens there and have also let her know that it is special – not scary. However, I do not know really what to do when it happens! Should she start out with pads or the junior tampons? Do I teach her phyically or let her handle this alone? I would appreciate any help you can give.

Thank you, Denise

Dear Denise,

It’s such an honor, really, to witness and facilitate a little girl’s transition into womanhood. True, she’s only 11 and won’t be grown for a long time, but this is definitely a harbinger of things to come. It’s a big moment for you both but can be a little anxiety provoking as well.

It sounds like you have done an excellent job of watching for the signs that indicate menstruation is getting close and also of preparing her for what’s about to happen. Congratulations for being so “on it” and making sure that she knows what to expect so that she won’t be scared or confused.

From this point on you should make sure that she has a couple pads with her whenever she is away from the house. No telling where she might be when it starts.

As far as your question goes, yes, this is something that she absolutely needs your help with. You can tell her that it would be a good idea to get a little practice in putting on the pad and even wearing it around the house for an hour or two so she will know what it feels like. Then if it happens when she is away from home, she will know what to do and how to do it. That will take some of the stress out of it for her. So just show her how to attach it to her underwear and let her practice.

You can let her know about tampons, too, but allow her to take the lead in asking to use them. I would stick with the pads for at least a couple months or so but girls can begin using the junior tampons whenever they feel ready and want to try. Some are raring to go right off the bat, while others hold back for years.

But once she lets you know that she would like to try tampons, make sure the two of you have plenty of privacy and won’t be interrupted. Explain how they work and have her sit on the toilet, find her vaginal opening, and then try inserting it. Some girls find it easier to do lying on their bed the first few times. You can be close by, but give her privacy and have her insert the tampon herself.

If she does go the tampon route, make sure you tell her that she must change it every 6-8 hours in order to avoid an infection. Also emphasize that it’s really important to remove the one that’s in before inserting another. It sounds silly, but you would be surprised how often this happens with teens.

Remember, too, that girls can get cramps with their periods and just be prepared to explain that it’s normal if it happens. The yoga asana “Child’s Pose” can really help with cramps as can a heating pad. Check with your pediatrician for other medical remedies.

She could also get a bit of the blues with her period, so be extra patient if that happens. I wouldn’t talk too much about any of that ahead of time, though. No reason to have her expecting that those things will happen. They may not. But if they do, you’ll be ready to deal with them.

I’m assuming that you have explained to her what menstruation is all about — in other words, that you have started talking about babies and how they are conceived and born. If you haven’t already, now is the time. Don’t be worried about saying the right thing and don’t feel like you have to tell her everything at once.

Instead, use this opportunity as a natural way to start a conversation that can go on for years about being female and respecting herself and her body. It can be a real bonding experience for the two of you and you can introduce yourself as her personal guide into the world of women.

Good luck and congratulations to you both!

*The book, Before She Gets Her Period: Talking To Your Daughter About Menstruation , might be a good one to read, have on hand, and share with her now. Another favorite is The Care and Keeping of You by the folks from American Girl Dolls.

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Ellen W. Schrier, LCSW, is a family therapist and the mother of three adolescent/young adult kids.

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6 responses to “My Daughter’s Getting Her Period. How Much Do I Help?”

  1. Melissa Mikulak

    My daughter (5th grade) will be seeing the “health” video next week in school. I’ve found that the American Girl books are very easy to read and understand. The Care & Keeping of You covers every topic under the sun regarding puberty without going over top. We’ve really enjoyed it and it’s opened the door to some great conversation. Comfortable conversation.

  2. Barbara

    I’d like to add another recommendation for the American Girl books. My daughter is 8 and is showing very early signs. She is a worrier and I wanted to have everything clear well before she had to deal with her period or side effects. I read through all of the books in that section of the bookstore before settling on these as the only ones that are appropriate for girls who are physically maturing well before they are ready to consider issues of boys and dating. She read through the books asking questions and voicing concerns as she did. In the process I learned that she is behind some of her classmates in physical maturity.

  3. Gwen Boucher

    My granddaughter started at 8 and I considered that really precocious! While I am not a Doctor, I am told that the main cause of all this is the estrogens in our milk and other products packaged in plastic bottles.

    Another thing that is not talked about much is this same thing is retarding the physical maturity of boys. Gosh, they are slow enough now! :)

  4. Nicole

    I think a personal gift is a thoughtful way to approach the topic of menstruation. I have such a gift available at my website –>

    This is a great time to comfort and encourage young girls, and welcome them to this journey into becoming young ladies.

  5. Shouldn’t She be Prepared?

    […] A key question here is how much involvement your daughter would like you to have. For more on that subject, take a look at our previous post, My Daughter’s Getting Her Period. How Much do I Help? […]

  6. Carolyn

    My 9 year old granddaughter has been having mood swings for the past 3 or 4 months. She doesn’t have breast buds or any pubic hair but I was wondering if she could be getting ready st start? Her sister was 10 when she got her period .
    Thank you.

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