Go With the Flow

How to deal with your daughter's first period.

By PT Staff, published on May 1, 1996 - last reviewed on August 30, 2004

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.

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%).