I got my period for the first time when I was in fifth grade. It was early November, and I had a tummy ache that day at school. My stomach hurt so badly that I had to sit out at recess. I remember curling up into a little ball, sitting up on the asphalt hill while my friends played jump rope below me.
That night, I saw a swirl of blood in the toilet, and while I knew what it probably was, I was shocked. Although I already had budding breasts and had shot up taller than most of the other girls (that would be the last time I was among the tallest girls in my class!), I had no idea girls could get their periods that young.
Thankfully, my mom was super supportive. You may have noticed that I knew as soon as I saw the blood that it was probably my period. That’s because my mom had talked about this sort of thing for years. The way women’s bodies worked – and the male and female reproductive system in general – was no secret. And although my mother was just as surprised as I was about my early period, she didn’t freak out, or shame me in any way.
Getting your period for the first time can be an embarrassing, disorienting experience. But getting your period before most of the other girls in your school can be totally isolating and sometimes humiliating.
Although I’m certain now that other girls in my class had gotten their periods too (early periods are more common than most realize), I seriously thought I was the only one. And I’d been harassed a few times by the boys in my class because of my large breasts. It was as awful as it sounds.
But I got through that difficult time with my support – both from my mom, and from my best friend, whom I’m still close with to this day. I’d tell her each month when my period had arrived, and she’d accompany me to the bathroom, where she’d stand guard at the trash can while I threw out my pads. Just how incredibly sweet is that?
I’m a mom of two boys now, so I know I won’t be guiding my own daughter through puberty. Having had a mom who did it so well with me, I want to offer some advice for any parent helping their daughter through an earlier than usual first period.
1. Share The Facts
My mom not only talked openly about how female bodies work, but she also checked out a million books from the library for me with information and pictures. I devoured the books. They made me feel more normal, and it was empowering to understand exactly how my body worked, both inside and out.
2. No Shaming
It’s so easy to shame a girl for what is happening to her body, even inadvertently. Make sure your daughter knows that she did nothing wrong to cause an early period. She’s not weird or gross or “too mature.” Make sure she knows that there is a range as to when girls get their periods and she’s likely not the only one who has it this early.
3. Avoid Body Shaming
When you blossom early, you’re likely going to be curvy before most other girls. This can lead to embarrassment and body shame. I remember feeling so embarrassed that I hid in an oversized shirt for the rest of elementary school. Help your daughter know she is beautiful and her extra flesh is normal (it’s biology!). Never criticize her food choices or consumption. Help her to understand that her peers will catch up to her.
4. Don’t Freak Out
Our kids catch on easily to our own fears and stresses. If you are feeling worried or stressed about your daughter’s early period, discuss this with her doctor. They will let you know if there is anything abnormal going on. And if your daughter’s period is affecting your mental health, talk to a counselor. Don’t unload on your child.
5. Expect Your Kid To Freak Out A Little
Like I said, early periods can be really stressful. Expect your daughter to feel scared at times. Expect her to act colder or more aloof as she processes everything. Expect mood swings (from hormones but also stress). Just let her know that you will listen to her without judgment and that her uncomfortable feelings about her period are normal, okay, and will pass.
Pretty soon, the rest of the class will catch up with your daughter, and all this discomfort will be a thing of the past. But as she is going through this all, don’t underestimate your role in it. You have the power to provide the loving support she needs to get through this, to adjust and thrive, and to blossom into the amazing person she is destined to be.