Your daughter’s first period: Age she will start and how to explain a period to tweens
‘Normal’ age for menstruation to start and how do I tell my daughter about periods?
The average first period age is 12. But it can be as young as 8 or 9 for some people with periods. Youngsters experience the stages of puberty at different times, so why not prepare a period starter kit for your daughter as she reaches puberty? This will help you both feel in control.
Also take time to know the signs your daughter is about to start her period (more on this lower down) and start talking about periods, if you think the time is right.
Our video (above) gives some pointers. Additionally, read on for more about having the ‘first period talk’ with your daughter or tween you’re close to or care for.
Finding ways to talk about a young girl’s first period in an open and confident manner will make all the difference to her experience of menstruation.
Signs your daughter is starting her period
As she gets older, keep eyes (and ears) out for the physical signs of puberty and any topics of conversation she might bring up, such as:
- Developing breasts – should she wear a bra? Can you take her bra shopping?
- Growing pubic hair and darker leg hair – why is this? Does she need to remove the hair?
- Discharge in her knickers – what’s normal and what isn’t?
- Signs your daughter is starting her period might be evident in what she’s not saying as well as the questions she asks. Is she holding herself differently or wearing clothes to cover body hair she’s ashamed of? Is she worried about going swimming?
- A lot of angst stems from societal embarrassment to do with periods and puberty.
Shame around daughter’s first period and talking about periods
Your daughter’s first period doesn’t need to be a source of worry, but – more often than not – it is. If their first inkling of menstruation is playground gossip and jokes, a young girl can develop a sense of fear, anxiety, and isolation at the prospect of what’s ahead. Myths, shame and embarrassment often mean periods go undiscussed in the family home, which can result in your child stressing out.
Menstruation is a natural process, but we still live in a society where we hide pads up our sleeves, where images of blood stains are removed from social media and sportswomen are reluctant to speak up on the impact of menstruation on their performance.
Essity spokesperson, Nicola Coronado
Bodyform research found almost half of UK women and girls find it difficult to talk about periods with friends and family – mothers and sisters included.
There’s a sense of taboo about periods, like they’re something to be ashamed of.
Although a quarter of women of reproductive age are menstruating at any one time, and the average woman spends about an eighth of her life menstruating, it is still considered an unwelcome topic.
We want to break down barriers so all can live fearlessly. Here’s our advice on the best ways to explain periods to your daughter.
Know the right age to talk to your daughter about periods
We need to start talking to our daughters about periods from around the age of 7. Although the average age for starting periods is 12, girls can enter puberty even younger than this.
Conversations and rumours will start at school well before your daughter needs her first maxi towel. So, talking about periods from as young as 7 will help her prepare.
What youngsters think about ‘period talk’:
“Talk to us about periods just the same way you’d explain about skincare – so we understand what’s going on physically, and what we need to do,” says Toni, who learnt about periods from her female cousin.
“I want the facts but don’t want to actually have the conversation,” says Karli, an only child. “It would make me cringe, so I guess a letter or a text would be the best way to tell me all about periods.”
“Mum didn’t talk to me about periods until I’d had my first one and made a mess of my clothes. That was just dumb. If it hadn’t been for my friends, I’d have been in such a mess. So yes, it’s embarrassing, but we still need to know this stuff. Just like we need to know how to do maths,” adds Sam.
Overcome your own ‘period embarrassment’ and explain periods to your daughter on her terms
Having the period talk can be intimidating for parents, of course, who may feel awkward and embarrassed themselves. Consider having a series of conversations, not one big talk, so it doesn’t feel like a huge, scary moment you’re all worried about or dreading
Introduce the subject briefly to start with, so she knows periods are up for discussion. Advertisements for sanitary protection, TV soap storylines that cover the issue, sports stars and celebrities discussing issues around menstruation, social media campaigns – all give you a ‘way in’ to start a discussion.
First ask your daughter how much she knows about periods, so you don’t get the eye-rolling response when you start telling her something she’s already well aware of. Try talking about your own period experiences or #wombstory, as a teen and as an adult, so she can relate to the subject in a more personal way. Keep the story positive or at least with a positive outcome, so she doesn’t panic about something similar happening to her.
When she’s ready to ask questions, be prepared to answer openly, and always use clear language like ‘period’, ‘vulva’ and ‘period pants’ (not euphemisms like ‘time of the month’, ‘down there’ and ‘protection’) to avoid confusion.
We teach them that it is a hygienic crisis, rather than what it is, which is an important gateway to talk about our bodies, our sexuality, our health, how we mature and age, as well as body image issues.
Chris Bobel, author of New Blood: Third-Wave Feminism and the Politics of Menstruation
Being open with her about the process of periods and how to manage them will help your daughter develop more confidence. Talking about menstruation, the different types of period products, including teen period pants for all types of flows, and knowing about the various stages and symptoms means the whole subject gets de-mystified. A period starter kit with some different products she can try will help her begin to know what she prefers using.
Other routes into the first period talk
Single fathers shouldn’t feel that they can’t talk to their daughters about periods, but if you do find she’s uncomfortable, try enlisting the help of a sympathetic aunt, female cousin, or another family member or family friend.
Sometimes the period chat won’t go too well, as your daughter may in the moment feel too shy and embarrassed to talk about something so personal. But she will still have questions and feelings to discuss, so later on let her know – by text or by letter – that you’re always available if she needs to know more.
A letter allows you to say all you want to without fear of her shutting you down. And don’t forget that teenagers often feel more comfortable addressing their feelings by text or WhatsApp, so don’t shy away from having this conversation entirely by messaging if it works for her.
A great way to communicate about periods is through Femojis – emojis that specifically deal with female issues. Most 16 to 25 year olds admit they find it easier to express themselves through emojis, so this is a quick and easy way to address issues and feelings you may both find embarrassing.