Most guides say that if you wait to talk about menstruation with your child until she has her first period, you are waiting too late. That is a bit of a stretch when menstruation begins at ages 7 or 8. One thing that I’ve done in my home is allow my daughter to see my menstruation products; after all, as I potty trained her and she modeled me, she saw them anyway. Simple explanations like, “Big girls bleed every month and these catch the blood,” and, “Mommy’s body bleeds to help it stay ready for a baby,” have worked for me in this light. My daughter ultimately starts asking if we can have another baby, of course; she’s much more interested in a potential sibling than her mother’s period.
So what do we do when our daughters start developing breasts and having their periods while they’re still in the first or second grade? That’s a tough one. Children at this age just don’t have the maturity level to deal with the idea of sex—nor should they. I sure didn’t understand sex when my mother was forced to explain it to me at age 9. Keeping answers basic—“You’re becoming a young woman. Women’s bodies do special things, like grow breasts.”—can be helpful. In fact, discussing the mechanics of sex don’t have to come into play at all yet; those may simply confuse your child even further.
It’s very important to answer your child’s questions as truthfully as you can, without making her feel ashamed or embarrassed. Strongly stress that it is a natural thing, that all girls go through this some time, and that it should be kept a private matter. (There is nothing worse than elementary school boys finding pads in your backpack!) Be as simple and truthful as possible without overwhelming her and causing even more undue stress. As she ages, you can gradually introduce her to more information about her growing body and sexual education. It’s also important to keep reminding her of “stranger danger,” as her growing body may attract unwanted attention.
It’s also important to take your daughter to the doctor if early puberty occurs. The cause may be something that needs to be treated, such as a tumor. Some doctors also prescribe medication to delay puberty if it’s caught early, before menstruation occurs; this way, the child’s social and emotional health and growth can remain age appropriate, and puberty can be postponed until the child is old enough to deal with it.