Did you spend at least part of last week mopping up tears or trying to cheer up depressed teen/pre-teen daughters who had just discovered that Zayn had left One Direction? If not, then you can probably move along to the next blogpost because I assume you have boys and you won't need to have "the chat" any time soon !
Oh yes, "the chat". Words that strike fear into any mother. No, not the one involving the birds and the bees. I mean the one involving periods ... or the chances are you'll call it something else like "monthlies" or "the time of the month" or, as my mum used to say, "your bad week". I had "the chat" with Sophie a few years ago but, now that she's 10, I'm going to have to have it with Juliette some time soon as well and I'm not really looking forward to it. I'm not a prude but it's so hard to know what to say and how to get the right balance between friendly chat and biology textbook.
Luckily, with perfect timing, the Tampax press office got in touch with me last week to share the findings of some recent research, conducted to coincide with the launch of New Tampax Compak Pearl. Amongst other interesting facts, I learned that over 60% of girls don’t talk to other women about tampons and that, although Mum is still the “go to” person when young girls have period concerns, bloggers and vloggers beat the school nurse as a source of advice. They've therefore asked bloggers to share their pearls of wisdom (no pun intended !) on having the puberty chat with their daughters. I've put my thinking cap on and come up with my top tips, but if you have any others, let me know !
1. Try to drop it into a normal conversation, rather than making it into something big and important and scary. Maybe take advantage of your daughter saying she's got a stomach ache to say that, sometime soon, that could be a sign that she's about to start having periods, or point out that she's getting grown up now and will soon be changing school, allowed to have a mobile phone, turning into a young woman and and having periods.
2. Find out what they already know (or think they know). Maybe they've got an older friend or a big sister who has already started periods. In our house, they noticed the dog being on heat and losing blood, which was a great ice-breaker ! The chances are, they'll already have some idea of what periods are all about so now's the time to set the record straight, debunk myths they've picked up along the way and offer answers to any questions they've been secretly harbouring and worrying about.
3. Don't go into too much detail, let them set the pace of the chat. Some girls are very curious and open about their bodies while others would feel extremely uncomfortable going into it with their mum. Just remember, you're only one source of information and they can pick up the rest online, in books/leaflets, at school or from friends. Make sure you leave the conversation open and say that you're always happy to answer questions at a later date.
4. Keep it practical rather than theoretical. Point out where the sanitary towels/tampons are kept for when they're needed. Suggest that it might be an idea to stick to dark clothes just in case at that time of the month and broadly cover the advantages and disadvantages of tampons versus pads - particularly if you're going on holiday or your daughter does swimming at school. Remind them that sports teachers will know all about the time of the month, even if they're male, so not to feel embarrassed if they need to be excused once in a while, especially if they're swimming. (You could even have a laugh about it being one of the rare advantages of having your period !). Suggest carrying a few tampons or pads and maybe a change of knickers with them in their school bag (although I'd have been mortified about my friends or the boys in my class discovering it at that age !) or suggest marking on a calendar "the time of the month" and planning ahead, wearing panty liners for a few days in advance to be on the safe side. Making it a "problem" to be fixed rather than a big scary life change can make it easier to talk about for mum and daughter !
5. Don't limit it to just what goes on "down there". You might want to mention mood swings (maybe you could admit to being a bit of a PMT-monster sometimes yourself, when you're particularly short-tempered with the kids ... you'll get knowing looks and smiles from your teen daughter next time you're being unreasonable!), spots and the sudden desire to eat a family-sized bar of chocolate as possible side effects. Without labouring the point, drop into conversation that this means they're now ready to have babies so need to bear that in mind when the time comes for them to have boyfriends (but don't overdo it - they'll have enough to be dealing with, without combining two major chats into one !)
As you'd expect, Tampax also have loads of useful guides for both mums and daughters - you could start with Mum's Period Questions Answered by Dr Radha Modgil or Everything You Wanted To Know About Your First Period and Beyond guide or maybe send your teens over to the Being Girl Youtube channel. Take advantage of all the free samples available too to help your daughter experiment and find the size/shape/brand that works for her.
Disclosure : We'll be receiving some Tampax Compak Pearl #perfectfit goodies for both Mum and daughter.