Why, when, and how to talk to your daughter about her period.

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While attitudes are more open and relaxed than they were a generation or two ago, some parents may still feel a little awkward talking about menstruation.

Times have changed: children today are exposed to sexuality at a younger age. When they have questions, they’ll seek answers — information that may not be medically accurate or age-appropriate — from their friends, television, or the internet. That’s why it’s more important than ever to have an open and ongoing dialogue with your daughter.

And it’s never too early. Yes, the right information at the right time is key, but the goal should be to get the conversation started at a very young age. Each girl develops at a different pace, so when they understand the changes that are about to happen, they can face the process of growing up with confidence.

Pediatric and adolescent gynecology is a relatively new specialization in medicine that begins addressing female health at birth. These physicians can be a great resource to help you normalize conversations about puberty while using medically accurate information.

Which brings us to how to have “the talk” (which, you’ve probably guessed by now isn’t a one-time talk). The most important way to prepare is to keep your attitudes very open and not be embarrassed. Make her feel comfortable by normalizing the body changes that are occurring. Take her shopping for pads or tampons and get a kit ready for when periods start. Go over the package instructions with her and ask if she has questions. It’s also important to be upfront about the new feelings, moods, and attitudes that come with puberty, which can often seem overwhelming to girls. Encourage positive ways to express these emotions through talking, journaling, exercise, or other creative outlets.

This goes for single dads, too. You’ll be surprised at how okay your daughter is with it when you approach the topic with ease and confidence. If you’re not comfortable, by all means ask a female family member to step in.

As another resource, IU Health has partnered with Girlology. an organization specializing in puberty, emerging sexuality, and adolescent health by bringing educational and interactive programs to girls of all ages and their parents. Recently, we hosted a session called “There’s Something New About You,” which talked about breast development, body odor, acne, growth spurts, and periods — all presented in a very accessible way.

Finally, don’t ever hesitate to ask for guidance from your family physician or gynecologist. As a pediatric and adolescent gynecologist myself, I want to stress the importance of the gynecologist as a lifelong resource and partner for wellness and reproductive health.

Erin Vilano, MD, MSc

Author of this Article

Erin Vilano, MD, MSc, specializes in pediatric and adolescent gynecology. She is a guest columnist and located at Riley Hospital for Children at IU Health and IU Health Coleman Center for Women, 550 N. University Boulevard, Suite 2041 in Indianapolis. She can be reached by calling the office at 317.944.8231.

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