By Alex Flanagan
If you have a daughter, you know that she’s going to one day get her period. Since it is one of those few things in life we have very little control over, it can come at any time. No, really. ANYTIME. Like smack dab in the middle of a soccer match or a swim meet!
That’s exactly what happened to one of my friends recently when her 12-year-old daughter discovered a tinge of red minutes before she jumped in the pool for swim team practice. Yes, water sports do add an extra little problem. It’s hard enough for your daughter (and you!) to come to terms with the fact her period started in the first place, but tampons right out of the chutes, not easy!
Since the coach had threatened no one was allowed to miss practice that day, my friend quickly jumped in the car. Minutes later she was locked in a bathroom stall at Target teaching her daughter tampon 101, which she failed.
If you haven’t gone through this yet, you should know that teaching your daughter how to put something in her va jay jay will feel contradictory to everything you know about being a good mom! But if you are like me, you’ll want to educate her so she won’t be emotionally scarred by puberty like our generation of women is because in the 1970s mom’s didn’t “talk” about things like periods, puberty and sex.
Experts actually say being open and approachable about menstruation is healthy and helpful to your daughter. Dr. Crystal de Freitas believes so strongly in talking about it, she’s made it her life’s mission, founding healthychats.com and teaching families how to talk about the birds and the bees with ease! Her number one piece of advice? Don’t panic … then she says talk about it as a good thing. Instill in girls the joy and wonder that it is to be female. Tell her how special she is and that she will always have your support. She also says, be prepared. Around the age of 11 start packing a little kit in your daughter’s gym bag or backpack. All you need is a small pad in a Ziploc bag. You can put it inside of a cute little makeup bag.
“Once your daughter has understood the basic concepts of menstruation, their next pressing concerns always seem to be the ’what if …’ What if it happens at school, or at soccer practice or the dreaded swimming pool practice?” Says Dr. de Freitas.
A few more tips from Dr. de Freitas:
Even before she starts her menstrual cycle, prepare your daughter by having her wear panti-liners. These are thin self-adhesive pads that will protect from any small amount of blood which is certain to herald her first period. For the soccer girls it is pretty easy to use a pad/liner with the usual soccer or gym shorts. (Many companies now make sports pads for girls to wear during soccer, volleyball, etc.)
Of course, she can not wear a liner nor pad with her swim suit in the water (your might want to tell her what will happen to a pad soaked in water), but using a liner and then wearing gym pants over her bathing suit and hanging out on the beach shore or pool side is always an option. Eventually of course, especially if she is on the swim team, young girls learn how to use a tampon. As a general rule I see that most girls wait after a couple of cycles before trying to insert a tampon. But many young girls are diligent and will give the tampon a try. There are certainly no contraindications.
Here are some basic guidelines:
- Purchase “slender” or “slim” tampons with a plastic applicator. These are easier to slide in.
- The tampon package insert has good visual instructions. Don’t be afraid to use a mirror.
- You can use some water to lubricate the tampon.
- Only insert a tampon when you’re having your menstrual cycle. Otherwise it’ll be uncomfortable.
- Remember to remove after about 6 to 8 hours or right after swimming.
- Dispose the tampon, wrapped in some toilet tissue, in the appropriate canister. Do not flush.
Remind your daughter that having a period is a normal part of all females’ lives. If the coach is a female, she’ll completely understand. If the coach is a male, give her some phrases to have in case she needs to step out, such as: “It’s a girl thing,” “May I be excused for personal reasons?” Everyone will understand.
May we all continue to grow with our daughters. — Dr. de Freitas
For more information regarding puberty, and speaking with your daughter about her period, visit www.healthychats.com.
Alex Flanagan co-founded I love to watch you play in 2015. She was flying home from an NFL work assignment when a learning specialist, who was sitting next to her, shared 5 reasons she shouldn’t feel guilty missing her son’s game. She shared their conversation on her own website alexflanagan.com and the response was so overwhelming it inspired her to create ILTWYP to help parents like herself navigate youth sports.