Imagine a girl playing. She is completely absorbed in an imaginary world which involves her teddy, a lego house she has built, and some loose change. She is talking for the teddy as she gathers the money into a little purse. Suddenly she looks up, a puzzled expression on her face. She looks down at her lap, then jumps up and runs to the toilet.
Now imagine yourself inside her head: “Oh! What’s that? I’ve wet myself. No, I can’t have wet myself. I’d better check. I’ll go to the toilet so no-one can see me. I am wet! What is this? It’s red. What is it? It looks like blood. I’m bleeding. Am I bleeding? Oh, I think I’m bleeding – from there. What can I do? I’m bleeding. Something’s wrong. What do I do? It’s blood. I’m bleeding. What can I do?”
This little girl is nine. She has just started her period. She is lucky, her mother found her crying in the bathroom and explained to her what was happening.
But she hated the blood. And she didn’t want to have to deal with it. And she didn’t want anyone else to know that she’d started, not even Daddy. And she was worried about going to school, and swimming. And she felt like something terrible was happening and she just wanted it all to go away.
Her mother was shocked too that her little girl had started so soon. She didn’t feel prepared, her daughter was still so young. She didn’t know what to do to make her feel better about it.
What might that little girl need?
- Hold her, comfort her, let her be little.
- Listen to her, whatever she wants to say, without contradicting, reassuring or minimizing.
- Let her be angry, sad, and fearful.
- Let her know that her feelings are normal.
- Explain to her very simply what is happening.
- Focus on the physical changes, not on “you’re becoming a woman” for now.
- Explain that her body is working well.
- Tell her about when you first started.
- Sympathize that to see blood is shocking (because blood usually means that something is hurt or wrong).
- Reassure her that the bleeding will stop by itself.
- Explain that it will happen again in a month or so, irregular at first.
- Make her feel special.
- Teach her how to keep clean.
- Show her how to use the sanitary wear she will need to use.
- Make sure she knows to change her pad every few hours.
- Be willing to deal with it all for her – until she is ready.
- If you can’t talk to her, find someone who can.
- Explain to her teacher the importance to be sensitive and discrete.
- Reassure her that no-one can tell when she’s bleeding,
- Give her a little pouch to hold pads and spare pants, to take in her bag.
- Some little girls really like the reusable pads in pretty materials.
- Make it a special time, share hot chocolate snuggled on the sofa.
- Read to her while she soaks in a lavender bath (with epsom salts).
- Massage her feet.
- Time ‘girls together time‘ to coincide with her period every month.
- Show her how to chart her monthly cycle.
- Help her to notice if her eating or mood changes with her cycle.
- Take extra care of her on the days she is bleeding.
- Take extra care of yourself on the days that you are bleeding.
- Remind her of other changes, that she is now become accustomed to.
- If she has pain or very heavy bleeding, seek advice.
- For the first few months, stay home from school on her heaviest days, until she gets used to managing it. Have fun.
- Take as much of the stress away as you can, and do nice things.
- Discretely seek out any other young girls who have started early.
- Tell her that it happens to all girls, sometime between 8 and 13 years old.
- Give her a private gift, to mark the special change in her body.
Do you have any other advice – or experience you can share?