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Your daughter’s biggest questions about puberty and periods—answered by an OB-GYN

Rear back view black mother and daughter questions about puberty
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Puberty comes with a lot of changes for kids—and a lot of questions. From what to expect from a first period to navigating mood swings, your tween may be looking for answers. I’m here to help! Read on to learn how to answer your daughter’s most common questions about periods and puberty.

Q. “What happens during puberty?”

Begin by explaining to your child that puberty is the period of time where your body goes through a series of changes as they transition from a child to an adult. During puberty, a surge of hormones prompts a girl’s body to change. Her shape might become curvier as her hips widen. She might gain weight or have a growth spurt. Her breasts will start to grow. Be open about what your child should expect, including increased body hair, oily skin, growth spurts and mood swings.

Q. “When will I get my period?”

The American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology states that the average age for a girl to begin menstruation is 12, with some girls starting as early as 8 or 9 years old. Alas, no one has a crystal ball, but this should give your daughter a general idea of when to expect her first period.

Let your child know that their period will start a few years after puberty begins. Explain that menstruation is the body’s way of gearing up to one day have a baby, when or if a woman chooses to. As much as you’re comfortable, you can explain the process of ovulation and how an egg is released every month from a woman’s ovaries. When the woman doesn’t become pregnant, the body sheds the uterine lining, which results in having a period. Explain that periods happen approximately every month, and the bleeding lasts for about 3 to 5 days, but everyone is different.

Q. “Which period products should I use?”

Let your daughter know about the different options like tampons, period underwear, menstrual cups and pads. She should feel free to try different period products, but in general, pads are the most straightforward and easiest for young girls to use.

Here’s a tip: A period basket is a great way to celebrate your child getting her period. You can place pads, tampons, their favorite tea, a Starbucks gift card, heating pad, yummy snacks, pain relievers and wipes in a basket so that your daughter’s period is a time of celebration.

Q. “Will my period hurt?”

Let your daughter know that experiencing some pain right before or during her menstrual cycle is common. More than half of menstruating people will have pain from their periods for one or two days. The pain can feel like a bad cramp in the back or lower belly. Sometimes, she may also have nausea and diarrhea. You can explain to her that the reason for pain during her period is because her uterus (the organ that holds a fetus), contracts and releases a chemical called prostaglandins.

Your daughter can use pain relievers such as ibuprofen one or two days before her period is supposed to start to alleviate any pain. Regular exercise, a warm bath, and heating pads also help relieve discomfort. If your child’s period pain interferes with her daily activities or causes her to miss school, it is a good idea to seek help from an OB-GYN or another healthcare provider to make sure that everything is okay.

Q. “Why do I feel more moody and emotional?”

Let your daughter know that there are lots of changes happening with hormones in her body leading up to and during her period. Her body is developing and so is her brain, so her emotions might be all over the place. She might be crying one minute and happy the next. She may be more sensitive or cry more easily than usual on certain days.

Here’s what can help your daughter navigate big feelings: fresh air, exercise and sleep. She might want to learn some breathing exercises that will help calm her body during those times where she feels emotional. And remind her that if she feels like crying, she should cry! Letting it out helps too.

Q. “When will I grow boobs?”

You can let your daughter know that typically the first sign of puberty is the development of breast tissue, which usually occurs between the ages of 8 and 13. There is such a wide range because everyone is different! Heredity sometimes plays a part; some girls develop at around the same time their moms did. Remember to let your daughter know that everyone grows at a different rate. So if she’s wearing a bra earlier or later than her friends, it is totally OK!

Q. “Is it normal to feel weird about my body?”

Lots of kids feel more self-conscious about their bodies during puberty. Here are a couple of tips to make your child feel more confident during this time in their lives:

  • Reassure your child. Let them know that whatever they are thinking or experiencing is normal. Everyone goes through it!

  • Remind your child that bodies come in all shapes and sizes. There is no one “right” way to look. Your child may start to compare their bodies to others if they feel “behind” or “ahead” of their friend group. Validate and normalize their concerns and experiences.

Hopefully this guide makes answering your child’s questions about puberty and periods a little easier. And remember: so long as you’re accessible, present and approaching these topics with honesty, empathy and compassion, your child will feel safe and secure during this exciting transition.