India has always been a country that has shied away from discussions about sex, sexuality, sex education, and the human body. Even when the conversations are related to sexuality or the reproductive system, not enough gets discussed, or conversations go dead when the topic arises.
But this does not stop young girls and boys from maturing, entering puberty, and reaching the reproductive age. And when they do, young children have many questions, and they start looking for answers. The first place they might go to look for answers is their parents, and only if parents support these discussions with enthusiasm and comfort will the child not look in other places.
This is where you as a parent must step in.
You must take up the responsibility of educating your boys and girls about sexuality, puberty, and the changes that they will see in their bodies over the years.
For the scope of this article, we will discuss how parents can make their daughters comfortable and ease them into menarche. We will also talk about the things that a parent must discuss with their daughter (and also their sons).
What Is Menarche?
Menarche is the first time that a female starts menstruating or gets her periods.
It is when the girl turns into a woman ie becomes capable of reproduction. In the olden days, menarche would occur between the ages 14-18, but now, due to several factors like genes, lifestyle habits, and others, menarche can occur anywhere between 11-16 years.
What Can a Parent Do When Their Daughter Attains Menarche?
For some, this may be a period of joy, while it might scare the others, especially if menarche has never been discussed with them before.
As a parent, here are some things you can do to ease your daughter into menarche.
- Do not wait for "the" moment to arrive to have the talk. Start talking to your children from an early age so they know what they can expect.
- Spread the conversation over small talks instead of bombarding her with all information all at once.
- Notice when she enters puberty.
- Prepare her by showing her how to use a pad, just in case, she attains menarche when you are not around.
- Take the initiative to discuss things, and do not wait for your child to ask. They might never ask if you do not initiate.
- Have resources like books and videos that might help them understand better.
What Are the Things That Your Daughter Should Know When She Attains Menarche?
As you notice your daughter entering puberty, start talking to her in bits about menstruation and what might soon show up.
Here are some things you must ensure that they know by the time they attain menarche.
1) What Is a Period, And What Causes It?
The first and the foremost thing to teach your daughter about is what menstruation is. You do not want your daughter to be sacred the first time it happens or mistake it for an injury.
Your daughter must know her reproductive system and must understand how it happens. A menstrual cycle usually lasts for 28 days but may vary from woman to woman. The first day of a menstrual cycle is marked when the bleeding starts.
In the initial one or two years, menstrual cycles may be irregular. They may last for 3 or 6 days and might even happen only a few times a year. Inform your daughter that this is normal, and medical attention may be needed only if they stop getting their period completely for 3-4 months.
2) How to Use a Pad or A Tampon or A Menstrual Cup?
Teach your daughter how to use a pad correctly as they might not be able to place it themselves the first few times, and it could cause stains.
Pads are more comfortable than tampons, especially in the early years, and the vagina is still growing. Guide them on how to choose the correct fit and what to do if they find themselves in a messy situation or with a strain.
3) PMS or Pre-Menstrual Syndrome
Instead of letting society teach her about PMS by labeling her mood swings as PMS, it is most effective when the mother herself takes the initiative to teach her daughter about PMS and what to expect. They may or may not experience PMS, but should be aware of it and be able to recognize it.
Explain what pre-menstrual syndrome is and what causes the emotions, feelings, and mood swings. As a woman yourself, you can also teach her ways to relieve the symptoms. Condition your daughter to develop healthy habits rather than teaching her to gulp on ice cream when she feels low before her cycle.
Another part of PMS is the symptoms that start showing up before the cycle begins, like breast tenderness, backache, leg cramps, and cramps in the stomach. It acts as a ringing bell for an incoming period.
4) Maintaining Good Hygiene
Ensure you teach your daughter about menstrual hygiene and how douching frequently can cause infections. Teach her how often to change pads, and also, tampons and bad tampon hygiene can cause TSS toxic shock syndrome.
Often young girls may be conscious about smelling during periods and might tend to spray perfumes on the lower half of their body. Explain to them that it is absolutely normal and that smell only occurs from bad hygiene.
Encourage them to wash their hands every time they go to the washroom (even when not menstruating), especially after changing their pads.
5) Menstrual Cramps and Other Bodily Changes
Some girls might get severe cramps throughout their periods, while some might experience them for a few days, and some might not experience them at all.
Menstrual cramps are normal, so you can teach your daughter ways to relieve the pain if she faces such painful cramps. Usually, eating a balanced diet, getting plenty of rest, and staying active can help keep the pain during periods under control.
6) It's Okay to Exercise While Menstruating
Some parents ask their daughters to be inactive during menstrual cycles as that might increase the flow of blood or might not be beneficial for reproductive health.
Encourage your daughter to move around if she feels comfortable. She can perform every activity that she does on other days, as long as she is comfortable.
While these are things your daughter should know as she attains menarche, it is also important for your son to be aware of menstruation so that he has a healthy understanding of the happening. Create a comfortable atmosphere where your children can come to you with questions instead of looking in the wrong place.
A very important point to remember is that if you show menstruation in a negative light and call it things like a curse to women, or a time when women are considered impure, it will create a negative image in your child's mind as well.
Set a positive image in your child's mind and set a good example where they can acknowledge these changes as stages of their life and nothing else.