I can still remember the day I got my first period. I was 12 and I was home from school on a cold day in January. 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 realized 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.
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 practiced saying, “Mrs. So and So, I have a personal issue and I need to go to the nurse right now.”
As any middle school teacher and 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 jeans 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, too.
If you think your daughter is on the brink of getting her period, now would be a good time to discuss how the school nurse dispenses medications. Some schools allow parents to obtain a doctor’s order to leave medications like ibuprofen and acetaminophen on hand in the health room 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.
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 gym, 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.)
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 shoulder pouch in a few colors that coordinated with a lot of her outfits. She could wear them as a part of her outfit at school 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 of jeans or hoodies.
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.