Prepare Your Daughter, and Yourself, for her First Period

There comes a time when your adorable little girl’s body starts changing in ways that are confusing for her and disconcerting for you. Suddenly your cute, lanky, gap-toothed kid is sprouting zits, boobs and hair—and she seriously needs deodorant.


You know what’s coming next: her first period. Here are a few tips to help both you and your daughter navigate this exciting and nerve-wracking phase.

1. Recognize the signs

The average age for girls to begin menstruating is 12, but some start as early as 8 or 9. Two signs that are most closely tied to menarche (first period) are when a girl 1) needs a real bra and 2) has armpit hair.  Once your daughter develops these conditions, she’s likely to start her period within 3-6 months.

Luckily these signs are pretty obvious, so you and your daughter can get ready for the big event. This is the time to show your girl how to use pads and make sure she carries one in her backpack or overnight bag.

2. Expect the Unexpected

Whatever your period is like, your daughter is going to have a different experience.

Once she starts menstruating, her period will be unpredictable. It could last a couple days or over a week. It may come regularly; it may take a month off.  And your daughter doesn’t have the experience to know what’s happening to her.  She may tell you it “stopped” only to have it “come back” again the next day.

The key is to have a supply of pads readily available at all times. Brand loyal moms might be mystified by the abundance of feminine hygiene products out there these days. My advice is just buy a bunch of different products in a variety of shapes and sizes and let your daughter figure out what works best for her. When in doubt – bigger is better!

Most young girls aren’t comfortable using tampons at first, but some are. Show them to your daughter and explain how they work.

3. Have a positive attitude and get ready to talk

Your daughter will take her cues from you, so stay positive. No groaning about “the curse” or mourning lost childhood. Your daughter is growing up and her body is doing exactly what it should, which is something to celebrate. I’m not saying throw a Menarche Party (some do!) but recognize the event as a milestone and a sign of maturity.

Also, get ready to provide a lot of detailed information that your daughter will probably find totally embarrassing but really needs to know. She needs specifics like when to change pads and how to dispose of them, as well as practical advice like wear dark pants and how to handle swimming. Don’t assume she knows this stuff. Talk.

Finally, give your daughter tools to manage her period. She can track her cycle with a journal or calendar; there’s even an iPhone app called Period Tracker. A couple great books for girls are The Care and Keeping of You – the Body Book for Girls and The Period Book – Everything You Don’t Want to Ask (but need to know).

Resources and links:

The Care & Keeping of You: The Body Book for Girls (American Girl Library)

The Period Book – Everything You Don’t Want to Ask

Period Tracker App Review:

Menarche Party Supplies: