How do you prepare a daughter for menstruation?

Mother: “My daughter will soon be 11. Her body is developing, and I suspect she is on her period soon. How do I prepare her for what that means? I myself come from a conservative Mexican family. Growing up, it was something dirty and dangerous. I often thought irritatedly: ‘What am I in that womb for anyway?’ I would hope for her that she can embrace that femininity more than I can, that she can see it as the blood of life, the blood of life. But I don’t know what to say, and she doesn’t want to hear about it from me either. When I bring it up, she immediately protests. Are there good Dutch or Spanish books on this theme? And what should my and my husband’s reaction be when she has her period? All I heard at the time was ‘Now you’re a woman!’”

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Make it practical

Loes Keijsers: “It’s quite common that girls don’t want to talk about having their period, their bodies change, and that often comes with embarrassment. ‘Embracing femininity’ is nice, but something for later in life, first it’s nice if it is normalized. Talk to her about it in a practical way: “I don’t know if you want to hear it, but if you’re due to have your period soon, know that it’s normal. Look, I’ll lay out tampons and sanitary pads here. You can also put a sanitary towel in your school bag in case you get your period at school. If that’s the case, then you have my permission to call in sick, then you better come home.’

“You can go on to say, ‘I know it will feel strange, at least I found it quite difficult myself, but you can ask me anything.’ If the time came, I wouldn’t make it a solemn moment, neither would father. If your daughter wants to talk about it, you will notice.

“Family members can sometimes clumsily comment on a child’s changing body: ‘You’re getting breasts!’ Do not. In this case I always use the maxim ‘Would I also say this to my adult colleague?’”

Still starting the conversation

Laura Baams: “When adolescents get their period, a lot happens at the same time. For some adolescents, every month is a painful reminder of a woman’s body that they don’t want, or don’t want yet. We know from research that girls who get their period early get more attention from boys. They already have breast growth, there is some fat on the hips, that makes them look a bit older, sometimes alone in the class. It’s a nice process, but not always easy.

“I would still talk to your daughter every now and then, even if she reacts sullenly. Letting her know that she can always say or ask something about it is half the battle. You can point her to what can be found online about it these days: the menstrual app, the hashtag ‘period positivity’. Book titles: Yes, baby by Marie Lotte Hagen and Nydia van Voorthuizen (also about shaving etc.), Party every month by Yumi Stynes ​​and Melissa Kang.

“Make the toilet a woman-friendly place, put down a trash can, a basket with sanitary towels, tampons, handkerchiefs. Not only nice for her, but also for guests.”