As parents of daughters, we are only just relaxing into the post preschooler years, tantrums have subsided ( or become less-frequent at least) and things are on a more even-keel, when suddenly the knowledge hits us that puberty may be just around the corner and we need to start preparing them and ourselves for the next stage ahead!
As girls can begin their periods from as young as 8, it's important that they are aware of periods - what they are and what to do if it happens to them, or a close friend at school by this time. Here are 5 things our girls should know before they start their periods.
If we know these things, we can easily have small, matter of fact conversations over the course of their childhoods with more information and detail added as they develop in understanding and maturity, as opposed to a full-on sit down "chat" (which is how it used to be, if at all!)
What the female parts of the body are:
It's really useful for children to understand from a young age the areas and names of the reproductive parts of both sexes. Proper names should be used - Vulva is the outer part, vagina is the inner canal. We urinate (wee) out of the uretha and we bleed from the vagina. The Vagina is the canal that is connected to the uterus or womb where babies can grow when women are fully grown-up and ready - if they want to.
2. What periods are and what age they can start:
Females have their own individual body-clock and so can start puberty and menstruation anytime from the age of 8 up to 15. Each month (roughly 28-35 days), the womb goes through a process of building up the lining of the womb and then shedding the lining to make a new one for the next month. This process is known as the menstrual cycle. The lining is made of special blood cells from the blood vessels in the Uterus. It is to prepare the womb to grow a baby but for most of a woman's life, it won't be used as such - if ever. When a person menstruates (or has their period), the blood lining of the uterus is released out of the vagina. It might take a few months - or years - to have regular monthly periods though and you will find they may vary depending on different factors like stress, exercise, what you are eating, etc.
3. What the signs of puberty are:
Periods are only one sign of puberty. There are other changes our bodies go through on the way through puberty. These include changes in body shape, breasts forming, pubic hair, vaginal discharge, mood changes and skin changes. I will do more blog-posts on this here:
4. What period products are and how to use them:
The most effective products to use when we start our periods are pads. These can disposable or reusable (which I'd totally recommend long-term as they are more comfortable and easy to wash and they are SO much better for eh environment! Period pants are also a really good option if you can find the right absorbency to keep you going whilst at school or out for the day. Or a combination of period pants and pads to keep you fresher for longer.
It's great if our daughters can carry a disposable pad int heir bag in case they start their period whilst out and about, but they should also know to that they can always use toilet paper as a temporary solution until they can ask an adult, teacher or family member, or friend if they have one for them to use.
5. Not only is it perfectly healthy and normal to have a period - it is an incredible mechanism of the body and nature and nothing to be embarrassed or ashamed about!
Our bodies are incredible! There is so much they are doing that we don't even see or are aware of- digesting our food, fighting bugs, breathing, renewing cells, telling us when we are hungry or tired, etc and also preparing us (way in advance) to grow new life in our own uterus. The female monthly hormone cycle helps us to work in different energetic ways throughout the course of the month. When we understand this, we can understand more about how we respond to stress, emotions, work, social events, sleep, eating, exercise and so many other factors so we can harness that difference for our own good during the month and enjoy the ebbs and flows of our own menstrual cycle!
If you'd like a lovely and fun way to start gentle conversations with your children about periods, The Moon Child Book has been written and beautifully illustrated to start those conversations and frame the menstrual cycle and periods as a positive and beautiful part of nature to feel excited about and proud of!