So, she has entered double digits. The big 1-0!
With such power of being an official tween, comes great responsibility.
To help my tween on the road through puberty, I've been dropping little hints to make sure she is mindful of her changing body and how to care for it.
Maybe there aren't 101 things that you really need to talk to your daughter about before she starts her period (or perhaps there are) but here are some key things to help lay the foundation:
Tween Girl is at the onset of this whole puberty thing. It's been pretty hard to have conversations with her about puberty without the mention of sex (eek, I said it!). The decision to discuss sex is totally up to the parent but realize that your child will hear it elsewhere, be it the internet or from their friends. Don't you want them to hear a version closer to the truth than from anywhere else? Yes, it's a touchy subject but take a deep breath and prepare before launching into who has what and where it goes. You may be surprised at how much they know, so these types of topics are best handled in bites. You really want this to be a conversation where the two of you are asking each other questions and answering each other, this is not a lecture. Lectures are uptight and one sided. This is definitely a topic where you want to be honest and open with your tween.
Nervous? Yeah, I know. Here are some resources that I am currently using to help with having conversations about sex:
Hey, Sigmund - another great resource that takes a look from the psychology perspective.
Tweens don't necessarily like discussing their bodies with their parents, so tread lightly. From time to time, they may mention hair growing in places where it's never grown before. Take your opportunities as they come, don't be pushy. Once the opportunity presents itself, use yourself as an example. What did you do when you were her age? How did it make you feel once your breasts started to grow or when you started growing armpit hair? The key here is to let your tween know that what's happening to them is normal.
It's important for them to know the correct name for the parts of the female reproductive system and how each part functions. Knowing your own body should not be viewed as taboo or nasty, it's your body! Girls should be encouraged to learn their own bodies.
No worries, you'll have to explain again...and again until she has time to get used to it. Most pediatricians say that once a girls' breast buds start to appear, her menstrual cycle should start a year later. It also depends on the age a girl's mother was when she started her cycle. Either way, start talking about it before it shows up! Here's a lifesaver, one that my tween and I stumbled upon and it caught our attention and sparked an hour-long conversation: The Period Blog.
Don't make it awkward by specifically going to the store to visit the tampon aisle. This visit could occur on one of your normal Target runs. Just casually stroll over to that aisle and point out a few things, like the maxi pads or tampons. You are sure to get questions about how they look, what to do with them, what's the difference between the two or even your daughter asking you which ones do you use. You will be ready to...
Which will she prefer? Explain how to use each item. Again, The Period Blog provides great information and even pics (yes, pics, calm down).
Be sure to explain that the tampon will need to be inserted into her vagina, the pictures come in handy here. If she hasn't hit the floor by then, keep the conversation going by suggesting that she use the pads with wings to protect her underwear. In my opinion, tampons should be reserved for when a girl is a bit older. Hopefully, by then she will know her body and be used to monitoring her cycle.
Tweens bodies have started to change, which results in body odors and/or facial irritations. As parents, we must make sure that they have the necessities for a daily/nightly routine, which includes soaps for bathing, lotion for their bodies, facial cleanser and a moisturizer. Tween Girl and I have recently found a great product designed for tweens, which we will share in an upcoming post.
Getting in the habit of good hygiene sets the stage for when her period starts. She will need to be sure to keep her body clean. In your conversations, mention that having a menstrual cycle may mean having an odor. There may be instances where her period stains her clothing or when she will need to change her pad. It's nothing to be embarrassed by but it's important to have certain items to stay as fresh as possible. Of course, it will take time for her to ease out of any embarrassment, if there is any, and become skilled in using hygiene products to stay fresh during her menstrual cycle.
In order to keep the "stay fresh" theme alive in Tween Girl's mind now, we decided to...
A refresh kit is a bag/pouch that holds extra maxi pads, clean underwear, at least two ibuprofen, lotion, and wipes. It can be kept in her backpack or purse and ready for when she needs it. Let her know that her "refresh" bag will need new items added once she starts her period - spare underwear, pads, ibuprofen.
Tween Girl and I recently put together a "refresh" kit for her to keep in her backpack, look for the details in an upcoming post.
Sometimes kids need to hear certain things from other people aside from their parents. Yearly physicals can be a time when your daughter can ask the doctor any questions about her changing body. The pediatrician can provide great insight to when your daughter will start her cycle.
The Care and Keeping of Us - this has become a staple between moms and their girls. I purchased this set because it comes with separate books for moms and their daughters and a journal.
There is a difference between having the books and actually reading them. Read the books separately and together. Another reason why I like The Care and Keeping of Us is because it allows us to share reading time together and gives Tween Girl an opportunity to ask me questions if she wants to. Having separate books also gives us the space to go off and read if we'd rather be alone.
Tween Girl started reading The Care and Keeping of You for younger girls when she was around 7. I wanted her to start reading about puberty to help get us where we are today.
Before the rubber hits the road, settle this within yourself: you will be honest with her about things that will happen to her body over the next few years. Decide on how you will phrase certain things, how you will back off when she doesn't want to talk to you. Realize that you are there to give information, this is not about you controlling her. Put yourself in her shoes, remember what it was like? Yes, you and I turned out ok but let's not deceive ourselves, times are different. I know that every generation takes pride in saying this but c'mon, we didn't have social media. Nuff said!
Seriously, though, not sure how your mom handled you starting your period but mine didn't handle it so well. This is my only shot at creating a strong foundation, so I am choosing honesty.
Even though we've been having our conversations for a while now, I am usually drained at the end of each and every one! A part of me struggles with not wanting to tell her anything, in hopes that she will stay 10 forever. Then reality sets in and I realize that I MUST have these conversations with her before she starts googling it or starts listening to her friends tell her what they heard about starting your period.
So to avoid or lessen being drained after these conversations, make sure that you have ways to take care of your mental needs. Trust me, you will need an outlet.
Even though it wasn't quite 101 things to do before your daughter starts her period, it was still quite enough. It may seem overwhelming but it's needed and worth it. Your daughter is off on this journey of puberty, which isn't a one size fits all type of topic. It should be diced into bite-sized conversations repeated over and over again, coming from you, the parent. Having a period is just part of the journey. Strap in, Mama, you're on a road trip!
What do you wish your mom would have told you about having a period?