I can still remember the day I got my first period. I was 12 and I was home from school during the January holidays. Though I had been given books and “the talk” about the changes that were coming to my body, when I saw that splotch in my underwear, I genuinely thought I might be dying. Though I quickly realised what was going on, to this day, I can still vividly remember my preteen panic.
I also remember the giant maxi pads my mother sent me to school with the next day. The mortification was deep and it was real back then.
Thankfully, products for menstruation have come a long way. And now that I have a teenaged daughter, I’ve learned a few tips and tricks that will help make your daughter’s period a little easier on both of you.
Discuss 'The Big Day' way ahead of time
Of course you will talk to your daughter about the mechanics of her period and what to expect, but I’m talking more specifically about discussing her fears about getting her first period at school. Teen girls can be embarrassed about suddenly getting their periods at school, and it can be overwhelming.
Talk to your daughter about teachers or staff members she trusts and discuss how she’ll discretely ask if she can go to the nurse’s office or bathroom if need be. We practised saying, “Mrs So and So, I have a personal issue and I need to go to the nurse right now.”
Remind your daughter that her teachers are used to handling sudden period emergencies
As any high school teacher or sick bay nurse will tell you, they’ve see all forms of period “emergencies”. But, to a teenage girl, it can seem like the end of the world if they’ve stained their skirt or if their cramps are nightmarish.
Gently remind your daughter that the staff at school is not going to laugh at her or betray her trust. And let’s face it, we all had sympathy for the girl who forgot to bring pads to school, so tell her that her friends will help her as well.
Leave medications for cramps at school before your daughter starts to menstruate
If you think your daughter is on the brink of getting her period, now would be a good time to discuss how the sick bay dispenses medications. Some schools allow parents to obtain a doctor’s order to leave medications such as ibuprofen and paracetamol on hand in the sick bay in case your daughter’s cramps become disruptive to her learning. This small step will make a big difference on a day when your daughter may really feel miserable.
Download a period tracking app
Gone are the days when we’d have to count out squares on an actual calendar to see if Aunt Flow was going to prevent us from wearing white shorts. These days, there are apps you and your daughter can put on your phones that will help track her cycle.
Not only is it useful for planning around the swimming unit in PDHPE, the apps can also be a useful tool in helping to treat irregular periods or other issues related to menstruation. The apps are fun and positive, too, so you’ll find you might be using one for yourself, as well. (We like Period Diary, if you’re looking for one.)
Buy a cute carrying case or container for transporting pads and tampons to school
My daughter’s biggest fear was that people might see her taking a pad out of her locker at school. We bought her a cute beaded pouch in a few colours. She could carry it like a purse and her pad was discretely tucked inside just in case.
And, on the days she doesn’t want to use the pouch, we have found that period products marketed for teens are sleek and flat. Some brands make pads that slip easily into back or side pockets.
Although the first few times my daughter had to go to school with her period were a little stressful, we’ve found our way together. And, truth be told, I’m more than a little bit jealous that she’ll never know what it’s like to have to wear a pad the size of a pillow.