A dad and his daughter have a special bond: In their personal fairy tale, she is the princess, and he is the hero. And, as the daughter grows up, she experiences all the joys and struggles that come with getting older. Puberty comes before you know it, and that means the daughter’s first period, or menarche, is just around the corner.
When your daughter is close to having her first period, dad can continue to be the hero and help his little girl through what can be a difficult time. Russell Horton, DO, who specializes in pediatrics, and Adrienne Burke Miller, CNM, MSN, explain the basics to help dads understand their daughters’ first period.
Before the first period
Dr. Horton said there are a few things dads should know before the inevitable first period starts, which typically happens around 12 and 13 years of age. However, genetics, body type, ethnicity and other factors cause the actual time for the menarche to vary from girl to girl.
When it comes to figuring out if your daughter is close to having her first period, Dr. Horton said to know the telltale signs. One major sign you may notice is your daughter beginning to develop breasts.
“Typically, the first period is about 2 years after breast buds start to form,” Dr. Horton said.
It is important to talk with your daughter before her first period starts to help her understand what to expect, according to Burke Miller. She also believes having several smaller talks, rather than just one big talk, is a better way to go. She advises keeping any conversations about puberty open and honest. You want to make the topic feel less like it is taboo.
Parents should also consider making a “first period kit” for their daughter to carry with her—especially at school. Use a small, zippered pouch and put a few teen-sized pads and a change of underwear in it in case her period starts when she is at school.
Once the period starts
The first period will likely last between 2 and 7 days, but the length can vary greatly, depending on the girl. For some girls, it may be light spotting, but others may have a heavier period that doesn’t last as long. Dr. Horton said the flow of a period depends on the girl and is hard to predict.
Your daughter will likely have cramps with her period, too. Dr. Horton recommends over-the-counter ibuprofen to help, and if the cramps are consistent and get worse, taking ibuprofen before the period starts and continuing it throughout the cycle can help. You can also try heating pads and hot water bottles to help ease cramps. And, be sure your daughter is drinking plenty of water.
What can dads do?
Dr. Horton said the first period can be a very emotional time for any girl, and it is important for the dad to stay calm. You should also make sure your daughter knows the period is totally normal, and you are there to help.
“Having a plan in place for dad before her first period will help keep dad calm as well,” Dr. Horton said.
Burke Miller said it’s also important dads remember to avoid using harsh phrases, such as “It happens to all girls” or “You will be fine.” Dads should stay supportive and understand that starting a period can be very emotional and uncomfortable for their daughter.
Finally, Dr. Horton believes this is a great opportunity for fathers to show they are there to help their daughters in all aspects of their life. It also lets them show they want to be involved in their daughters’ lives.
“Father’s should feel confident helping their daughter through this time,” Dr. Horton said. “Making the subject feel less taboo and uncomfortable creates a healthy transition into adolescence.”
Looking for more info? Visit the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists’ website for some info dads can share with their daughter.