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Seven Tips for Talking to a Girl About Her First Period continued...

3. Answer questions with simple, factual information that is age appropriate. Don’t feel the need to elaborate or go into extensive explanations because you’re nervous. If your first-grader finds your box of tampons, you can simply say, “Mommy uses those every month when she gets her period,” without going into a two-hour discussion of the menstrual cycle, ovulation, and female anatomy.

4. Take time to understand what your daughter is really asking. Instead of assuming you know what your daughter’s asking, find out what she thinks the question is about. If she asks something about girls bleeding or has heard another girl talk about her first period, ask her, “What have you heard about it?” You might find out that she’s heard something strange or off-base that you’ll need to correct with good information. (And you’ll also buy time to figure out just how you want to answer.)

5. Use your own experience to spark discussion about hers. “It’s perfectly fine to say, ‘Do you have any questions?’ And somewhere on the planet there may be a kid who says, ‘Yes, I have several questions and here they are.’ But most won’t,” says Lynda Madaras, co-author of a series of popular books on health, childcare, and parenting. Instead, take a more casual approach: “You know, when I was your age, I was really worried about getting my first period because I thought it would hurt a lot. Are you worried about that?”

6. Know that “I don’t know,” is a perfectly acceptable answer. Sometimes children ask questions that we aren’t prepared for. Madaras recalls the mother whose 5-year-old asked, “Who was on top the night I was conceived?” At a time like this, it’s fine to say, “That’s a good question. I’m going to think about it and get back to you.” (But do get back to her. Don’t pretend you forgot in the hope that she will too.)

7. Don’t just hand your daughter a book or video. You can use a book or video as a jumping-off point to discuss menstruation, but don’t just hand your daughter a book and assume your job is done. Watch it or read it with her, and talk about it with her afterward. (Madaras’s What’s Happening to My Body? books are good choices, as is her My Body, My Self, which has spaces for journal notes and Q&As tailored to parents talking to their daughters about menstruation and puberty.)

Girl to Woman: Your Changing Body

Teen girls: See how your body changes during puberty.
View slideshow