Your Child's First Cycle and Beyond
Do you feel ambivalent about the approach your child's first cycle? I remember hoping Aunt Flow would hold off for as long as possible with my girls. Sadly, unlike me who didn't have to deal with Flow until age 18, they started menstruating in their very early teens. Using cloth pads was something they had grown up seeing me do, so it seemed natural enough to them to follow suit. Yet, there was certainly a learning curve for all of us in not only discussing menstruation, but also in the use of cloth pads. Here is what I have learned.
- Speak about menstruation with confidence so that your child won't feel ashamed about something that is natural and normal. Be mindful of your own attitude regarding menstruation because your child will pick up on it - good or bad. Some comic relief mingled into these conversations helps as well. A smile and a laugh can help break the ice.
- Teach your child correct anatomical terms when discussing the mechanics of menstruation. More than likely, your child will already have some knowledge or preconceived notions about menstruation from friends, classes at school, or even entertainment sources. Be sure their knowledge is correct. This will go a long way later if they decide to use a menstrual cup or if something goes wrong.
- Educate your child about a complete menstrual cycle - not just the bleeding days. Being more aware of body changes during a whole cycle will help them become more aware of when Aunt Flow will make her appearance.
- Menstruation can take some time to become predictable in young girls, but be aware of the warning signs that things are not right. A few red flags that come to mind are too much blood loss, and periods that last more than 7 days. Know when to seek medical intervention.
- Once your child's cycles seem to become more regular, she might enjoy a "period app" to help her chart her cycles. My daughter loves this!
- Don't make assumptions that your child's cycles will somehow mimic yours in starting age, regularity, or ease (or lack thereof). Monitor their cycles and take notes. One of my daughter's began cycling easily and regularly after the first few months. My other daughter's cycle was erratic and abnormal and we had to take extra measures to regulate it. This is why I stress communication without shame.
- If you are into herbal teas, red raspberry leaf tea is the best tonic for regulating cycles as well as easing PMS symptoms. My younger daughter can testify to this.
- PMS happens. If your child is extremely moody, it might be that Aunt Flow is on the way. Be gentle with them during this time. I usually tactfully point this out to my daughter and make her some tea. Reminding her that her "mood" is probably hormones helps her to be more mindful of her behavior and also reminds her that her feelings won't last forever.
- If you plan on your child using cloth pads, start building their stash early and get their pads "conditioned" and ready for use. It can help them feel more excited about this milestone in life if you allow them to help pick out their new stash. Even adults write me saying they now look forward to their periods because of their cool pads!
- Put together a small kit that can easily travel with them just in case they start their period outside the home. Include spare underwear, a couple small pads, and something to store soiled pads in such as a Zip-Lock or wet bag.
- Encourage them to responsibly care for themselves and their cloth pads by changing them regularly. Also, give them a place to properly store soiled pads so they can all be washed together promptly after a cycle ends. Nothing like finding that two month old, crusty, stray pad....eh, yuck!