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When to have the first period talk with your tween

When to have the first period talk with your tween

If your tween has started being grumpy for no apparent reason, answering back, or crying and doing a lot of extra sleeping, it’s a sign that her hormones have really kicked in and she’s in the early stages of puberty. Yep, it’s time to sit her down for her first period talk so you can let her know what she can expect.

By Elizabeth Chapman, Australian distributor of Lunette and co-founder of the Sustainable Period Project

Generally, the sooner you have the period talk, the better. Periods can start anytime between eight-16 years old, with the average age being 12 or 13. If you haven’t had a conversation about periods with your tween yet, then you need to. Otherwise she will hear about it in the playground and you’ll have no control over what she’s told.

One mum’s experience: What it’s like when your daughter gets her first period

Early signs

The first signs of periods can come long before a change in mood arrives. Early signs include an increase in body odour (particularly underarms) and pimple break-outs or tiny spots on her face. Small breast buds develop and pubic and underarm hair starts growing. 

She will notice the changes in her body, so one way you can start to introduce the idea of periods is by emphasising proper body hygiene. Encourage her to shower daily, focusing on her face, underarms and vulva.

You may also notice a light discharge on your tween’s underwear (clear or white). This usually occurs around ovulation and your tween’s body may start cycling for three to 12 months before her first actual ‘blood discharge’ period. This is all normal.

Casually point out the discharge to your girl and mention that it’s a sign of her body getting ready to have periods. Mood changes, headaches and tummy cramps (PMS) may accompany this cycling, so encourage your tween to take note of any patterns as her body gears up for the next stage of her life. It might be helpful to buy her a book about periods and puberty, so she can have it on hand to refer to whenever she feels ready.

For her library: 6 good books about starting your period

The first period talk needs to happen sooner than you think

Pads, tampons and cups

An easy way to introduce sanitary items to the first period chat is to leave a box of tampons, period undies, or a pad or your menstrual cup out and let the questions come.

Make sure you cover all the options when talking to your tween about sanitary products and allow them to own their period by choosing the products they want to use.

Modern cloth pads and period underwear are brilliant for younger tweens and offer sustainable options that will save a fortune in the long term. Menstrual cups are suitable for teens who are more confident with their period and can take a few cycles to master.

First period kit

Make a ‘First Period Survival Kit’ together. This is essential!

You’ll need one for home and one for the school bag. A pencil case or small make-up bag will do the trick and should include; a spare pair of underwear, a pad (disposable or cloth) or a pair of period underwear. Talk about how to use the products and go through what your daughter would do if she got their first period at school or a friend’s place or while you were at work or away.

More about kits here: What’s in our first period kit and some thoughts about starting

Remember to talk to your tween about periods in a factual and positive environment, as this will build confidence and normalise her attitude towards menstruating and her changing body. Just keep it light and matter-of-fact. You can add lots of little conversations into everyday situations to build on the ‘period talk’ and remind her that getting her first period is just a part of life.

Are you looking forward to having the first period talk?

Images by Annie Spratt

A Tween's Guide to Puberty Online Program

Michelle Mitchell’s course really takes the awkward out of The Talk.