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Prepare for Girls First Period

How to prepare for puberty for girls

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Some parents assume they’ve got all the time in the world to talk to their young daughters about the changes puberty will bring. But with American girls getting their first period between 9 and 15 — the average age is 12 — the earlier you broach the topic, the less the chance that menarche (the onset of menstruation) will catch your daughter by surprise. 

While most elementary schools do provide some information to girls by 4th or 5th grade and we live in a digital age where first-period promotions — like the cheeky videos from the feminine-hygiene company Hello Flo — go viral, “I’m not so sure that young ladies are as well informed as we think they are,” says Susan Kaufman, DO, a physician at the Center for Pediatric and Adolescent 
in Cherry Hill, NJ. Therefore, she advises parents to get ahead of the info, to present facts, clarify misinterpretations . . . and provide comfort. 

When to have "The Talk"

Rima Himelstein, MD, co-medical director of Crozer-Keystone’s Tots to Teens pediatric & adolescent GYN program in Springfield, PA, advocates speaking to girls by the time they’re 8. 

Debra Laino, DHS, a sex educator practicing in Wilmington, DE, says that “opening a dialogue” can start even younger — “as early as 6 years old, in a developmentally appropriate way.” 

“Developmentally appropriate” means giving a basic definition of puberty, using proper terminology when explaining how girls’ body parts change (“cutesy” can be confusing). Reinforce the info with pictures or illustrations from references like The Care and Keeping of You, Valorie Schaefer’s “Body Book for Younger Girls.” But don’t just hand your daughter a book and walk away. 

“Keeping the communication open and honest made for a simpler life change,” says MK mom Larisa Parker. She and her tween daughter had read and discussed Care and Keeping on their pediatrician’s recommendation. As a result, “When her period started, she was calm and felt comfortable coming to me,” says Parker. 

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