What to Do When My Daughter Starts Her Period

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Blended Family Advice author, Shirley Cress Dudley, gives single dads advice on helping their daughters through their first period.

In the last several weeks, I’ve seen two requests on Yahoo from teenagers who have started their periods and are afraid to tell their dad. I have also heard from single or remarried dads out there who are worried that their teenage daughter may approach them with this issue! As parents, it’s our responsibility to take care of our children. If you’re a girl, growing up involves starting your period. So dads- it’s time to get educated about your daughter’s period…period!

When does it happen?

There’s really no normal time for your daughter to start her period. Some start as young as 8, while other girls may start as late as 15 or 16. There isn’t a "normal" time. You’ll possibly see a bit of a growth spurt and the beginnings of breast development, a few months to a year before it starts.

What’s happening?

What’s happening to your daughter is perfectly normal. Here’s some basic information for you to have (so you’ll know more than your daughter will) in case she has questions. Her first period is called menarche, and lasts from 2 to 7 days.

Each month, from now on, the blood will build up in her uterus. This blood and tissue forms a lining to hold a baby. It’s now possible for your daughter to get pregnant! Yes- it’s also time, if you haven’t already, to talk about the birds and the bees!

The blood leaves the body, each month, because it’s no longer needed. It’s usually only a couple of table spoons- all very simple and normal. The process is called menstruation. You can get more information off the internet explaining the process, if you want more details.

What should I do?

First, act casual and as if it’s no big deal. Really- you’ve known about women and bleeding for years- you’re an adult, and a dad, right? You can handle this. The more nervous you are, the more embarrassed and nervous your teenage girl will be.

If your daughter is older than 8-years-old, it’s time to go to the store, this week and purchase supplies. You will need to buy an assortment of products to get her started. You should purchase pads, liners and tampons. Don’t get stuck on all the options. I’ve seen many a man standing in front of the feminine hygiene products- completely lost.

Here’s a cheat sheet for your first "run" to the store. Just purchase 4 packages:

  • Maxi-pad- regular, no wings, thin
  • Maxi-pad- overnight, regular, with wings, thin
  • Panty-liner- regular, unscented
  • Tampons- assorted box

The brands don’t matter, but don’t get generic. Yes- for a young teenage girl, the prettier the box, the better. It’s best to purchase the packages that have each item individually wrapped. Your daughter can stuff a few in her backpack or in her purse, if they’re individually wrapped.

Just so you don’t get shell shocked- here is an example of a maxi-pad- "Dry Max Ultra Thin Overnight with Wings" Here’s another example: Panty-liners come in body shape, original rectangular, thong, long, ultra protection, scented and unscented. Don’t confuse yourself with details now- your daughter can figure out her preferences later. Just look for the basic products listed above. Any woman standing nearby will be willing to help you and will truly admire you for purchasing the items for your daughter.

What should I say?

Having a period is a natural part of growing up. After you’ve purchased the products, stack them in a certain drawer or corner of the bathroom closet. Casually mention the items to your daughter. Tell her that you know she’s growing up, and her period will start one day- so you bought her some stuff she should go check out. Let her know that she can write you a note, when she needs more items or wants a different type product.

When she stares at you in horror or disbelief, just shake your head, smile at her, and say, "I’m your Dad, and I love you! Having a period is no big deal and just a part of growing up. I guess we’re both going to have to get used to you growing up!"

Other questions:

What do I do about the stains? She bled on her sheets and pajamas.

Use cold water and soap, and a little scrubbing. There are also several stain pretreatments, out right now, that will take away any remaining blood after you use the soap and water. It’s helpful to remind your daughter to wear a panty-liner when it gets a couple of days from her period. Some girls even keep a pocket calendar and mark the days of their period with an X. Then- count 30 days from the first "x" to the projected start date of her next period.

My daughter is sooo irritable now that she’s started her period. Is there anything I can do?

Studies have shown that taking ibuprophen will reduce the blood flow, intensity and length of the period, and reduce a women’s discomfort. Less sugar, less caffeine, more exercise and more sleep will also help.

My daughter wrote me a note and asked for "thong liners and tampons." Yikes! She’s only 16. Does this mean she’s sexually active?

Don’t worry- many younger teens are wearing tampons and thong liners, it’s a bit of a fashion statement right now, with some of their trendier clothes. Wearing tampons does not mean that your daughter is not a virgin.

My daughter hasn’t started her period but says she has some sort of discharge. What should I do?

If it’s just a yellowy discharge, without a heavy smell, and only lasts a couple of days- this is the beginning of her period. She could have this happen, once a month, for up to a year. (She also could have occasional discharge, during the month, after her period starts.) If her discharge does have an odor, or lasts longer than 2-3 days, or she is experiencing other symptoms, then take her to see her pediatrician or family physician. It’s also time to hand her a package of liners to wear.

I’m remarried; can I get my new wife to do this?

Yes and no. Your new wife (gal pal or female friend) can help you pick out the feminine hygiene products. But, ultimately, it’s up to you to mention to your daughter that you’ve purchased items for her If you can talk about it, then she will talk to you about it.

Richard JaramilloRichard “RJ” Jaramillo, is the Founder of SingleDad.com,
a website and social media resource dedicated to single parenting and specifically for the newly divorced, re-married, widowed and single Father with children.
RJ is self employed, entrepreneur living in San Diego and a father of three children. The mission of SingleDad is to help the community of Single Parents
“Make Life Happen…Again!”

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Richard “RJ” Jaramillo, is the Founder of SingleDad.com, a website and social media resource dedicated to single parenting and specifically for the newly divorced, re-married, widowed and single Father with children. RJ is self employed, entrepreneur living in San Diego and a father of three children. The mission of SingleDad is to help the community of Single Parents “Make Life Happen…Again!”