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First period: What fathers should know!



From changing diapers to drying tears: you’ve probably already done everything enough in your life as a father. But as soon as your daughter has finished first grade, she is quickly approaching her first period. Not a walk in the park. Usually. The Hamburg sexologist Christiane Kolb, who advises parents and daycare staff with regard to education, answers the most important dad questions about periods and explains how fathers should get involved – and where discretion is necessary.

Fortunately, there are a few years between being a small child and this first stage of physical maturity that the bleeding indicates. Fathers (and of course mothers) can use the meantime to prepare themselves – and the child. By the way, primary school is great for clear words because children are then open and curious and understand a lot. A first task is to convey clarity and openness. Love and body questions belong out of the taboo corner. Children need a friendly discussion about exactly how offspring are created and what that period is. By the way, single fathers can’t delegate this away either. Here are answers for everyone.

At what age do most girls get their first period?

On average, girls today get their first period between the ages of 12 and 13. However, there are girls for whom this happens one, two or three years earlier, and for others later. This is all normal. A hint helps: About a year before the first period, the first signs appear, such as the so-called white discharge in girls, a light, milky discharge. It shows that the female reproductive organs are now maturing. The breasts also change, followed by body shapes and hair. All of this can be addressed carefully and leave panty liners in the bathroom, accompanied by the note: you can try it – or leave it.

When should I talk to my daughter about her period?

The fact that there are rules, periods, menstrual bleeding and the cycle in general is already worth knowing for children in the middle of kindergarten. The story of the potential, blood-supplied nest in the uterus, which the body cleans out once a month if no fertilized egg comes along, is part of it. Girls and boys should be given more detailed information by the time they reach primary school at the latest. Who wants their son to make fun of girls who are still insecure about their own bodies? Respect comes with knowledge. In other words: at 7, 8, or at the latest 9, it’s good to address this. Then the children are more at ease when it comes to sexual topics. Rather, because the obligatory “Eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeei” is sure to come. And yet the interest is huge. The other physical changes of both sexes should also be described calmly. And maybe you would like to convey a little closeness and understanding if you let it be known that your own puberty was also challenging.

How do I start the conversation about periods?

Nobody wants to suddenly burst into the children’s room with it. My advice is to use (or create) situations that are related. For example, if a sanitary napkin advert is on television: say two sentences about it. Or if a pad or a tampon is flying around in the parents’ bathroom: explain. Two sentences about what and why, and everyone moves on. In many couples, the partner takes on the clarification. But dads score points when they show they know what it’s about. Yes, it takes courage, but you help your own child, and your son too, when physical phenomena can be discussed. The fact that there are still safety and shame boundaries in the family that everyone respects is also an important message. A conversation starter with imaginative images are body books that show genitals and reproductive organs. They help to convey basics about sexuality. Good body and educational picture books for the little ones (from three years old) include “Lina, the Explorer” (for girls) and “Bruno wants to go high” (for boys). Also great for this age group, regardless of gender: “Bodies are great”. Also recommended for slightly older children: “Small as a pea, as big as a melon,” “What’s that glittering?” and “A baby! How a family is created”. More advanced books for elementary school children include “AnyBody” and “Enlighten Me.” And especially for girls around their periods: “From Girl to Woman – A fairytale picture book for all girls who are rediscovering their bodies”. Don’t feel like reading a book? Then perhaps “Oh Woman” is the right choice – a beautifully designed educational game for ages 10 and up that parents and educators can use.

Isn’t it embarrassing as a man to say something about periods?

It’s embarrassing when you’re embarrassed. But also understandable. Not every dad has to lecture on this. Men who grew up with sisters usually have a head start because “I have my period” was part of everyday family life in childhood. But anyone who has the basic information (for example according to this text) shows: I’m interested in how you’re doing and I basically know what’s going on. Because who knows: maybe the days will come when mom is currently away? So: discuss everything important with the female side.

How can you overcome your own shame?

By thinking about what it is good for – and what it isn’t. It’s good because it shows personal, emotional boundaries and shows where you offend someone. It is exaggerated when this happens excessively and people cannot communicate about human, physical phenomena because of taboo feelings.

If the child or young person is ashamed, the environment has taught them – as many of us did during our own childhood – that genitals, sexuality and the period are a problem. The only thing that helps is if parents present physical things as what they are: normal. Human. Things we treat with kindness. Anyone who feels embarrassed can reflect on their inner distance. Where does the clammy feeling come from? Is it useful, or is it time to move past it? Consider: How should your child learn about physical phenomena as they grow up? Growing into it well prepared would be good.

How do I prepare my daughter for her first period?

Positive, sensitive-informative and timely. Because a lot has already been said about it: Every girl should know why this happens, why it hurts, how long you can bleed and when the bleeding comes back, perhaps irregularly at first – and what to do if it happens.

What products do you need to prepare your daughter for this?

Hygiene products should be kept in the house in an accessible drawer. The child is allowed to see what is available, sanitary pads, tampons, period underwear. Menstrual cups are for advanced users. Since there is a reluctance to insert tampons at the beginning, pads are suitable first, in two thicknesses, thin and for heavier bleeding. And yes, leaks do happen. So you hoard gall soap in the house and say that you use cold water to rinse, it washes better. And of course you can ask for discretion in the family bathroom.

Podcast tip: Author Christiane Kolb has also been a guest on the “Real Papas”, here is the conversation:

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Do you give something as a gift for your first period?

Difficult question. In our culture there is no ritual that celebrates the start of fertility (of course, the hint that you can get pregnant from now on should of course not be missing. The first ovulation takes place before the first period). On the other hand: If your 11 or 12 year old is still playing with Lego or Barbie and you then have a celebration party with guests because she is now supposed to have “become a woman”2, then that doesn’t fit at all.

The idea of ​​being a woman, physically ready for a baby, can be overwhelming for younger girls; they are often still very childlike. You first have to get used to the step that your body takes without being asked. I would advise a loving and understanding response. You can give the little big one a hug and assure her that everything is right, part of a long development. You can choose a small bag for the utensils or a pretty box for the bathroom, maybe give her a tiny bouquet, or she can choose something nice. Do it in a way that fits your family culture, in a continuation of what the tooth fairy brings, so to speak.

What do I do if my daughter is embarrassed about her first period?

She probably got the impression, thanks to sayings at school or somewhere else, that periods can be a source of shame. Parents can counter this by being open about it in everyday life. Oh, is that so? Yes there is. Okay, good, do you need anything? We are there. If she maintains her privacy, you should respect that too.

Conclusion: Everything sorted?

No, two more important things. First: a little pain, that’s possible. The reason is contractions of the uterus to loosen the lining. You can occasionally help with over-the-counter pain medication. However, if your now young child is in so much pain that everyday life falls by the wayside, you should have it checked by a doctor.


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