Go With the Flow

Getting her period for the first time is a big event in a girl's life. So it's no surprise that teenagers have very definite ideas as to how parents should handle it.

In interviews with 157 ninth-graders, psychologists Elissa Koff, Ph.D., of Wellesley College, and Jill Rierdan, Ph.D., of the University of Massachusetts, learned that come their first menstrual cycle, most teens pretty much go with the flow. That is, they rightly view getting their period as normal and healthy--not frightening or embarrassing.

The girls admitted that they preferred to learn the ins and out of tampon use from their friends, rather than from mom or dad. But there's still plenty parents can do to make menarche more comfortable and comprehensible. The teenagers' most-cited advice to mothers:

o Provide information about "the facts" and "what to expect" (72%). But don't get too technical.

o Provide emotional support (53%). Moms should broach the subject first--daughters may be too uncomfortable.

o Don't embarrass or discomfort girl (37%). Do not force her to talk about it if she doesn't want to.

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o Share knowledge of hygiene (17%). Supply and/or recommend products.

o Keep event secret from others (6%).

In short, "preparing daughters for menstruation requires exquisite tact, great poise, and extensive knowledge" from mom, say Koff and Rierdan.

And what about dads? Well some things are best left between gals. The teens' main advice for father: "Don't interfere" (69%).

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