As tampon company co-founders, we’ve spent a majority of the last few years talking to women about their periods and often get around to talking about their first period story. Where were you? Who was there? How did it go? And we’ve heard it all: Mom or Dad, home or camp, it was wild and weird.
The reality is, you can’t control where you are or who you’re with when you get your first period. So, dads need to be equally equipped as moms to talk about this topic because it’s just as likely that they’ll be the ones on the receiving end of first-timer questions. To celebrate Father’s Day this year, we’re doing what any good tampon company founders would do — we’re giving dads all the answers they need to make sure their daughter’s first period is as good as it can be.
So far, you’ve been there for all the big moments in your daughter’s life: you hosted tea parties to celebrate the birthday of her favorite stuffed animal, you held her steady the day you took the training wheels off her bike, you saw every school play, and lost your voice from cheering the loudest and proudest at her soccer games. But now her period is just around the corner, and you’ve decided that’s Mom’s territory.
Not so fast. How you deal with your daughter’s period is a critical moment in your relationship with your daughter and can influence her comfort with her own development in the future. Here are our top 5 tips to ensure you’re all adequately prepared and know exactly what to do when the big day arrives:
1. Start the conversation! She will feel just as awkward as you do about this chat — but lead by example! Let her know that you’re comfortable with the changes she will be experiencing and that it’s completely natural. Practice saying what you want to say out loud, and really enthusiastically (she needs to believe that you truly see this as an important milestone, so get the positive energy flowing). Also, come prepared with the right vocabulary so you don’t say “flower” instead of “vagina.” (More on this below.) Your ability to comfortably broach the topic first will set the stage for open, honest dialogue.
2. Be prepared. You might be there when she gets her period for the first time. This is what to do (and what not to do):
WHAT TO DO: Give her an enormous hug! Ask her what she needs from the drugstore and assure her that you’re headed there right now. (More on what to buy below.)
WHAT NOT TO DO: Run screaming from the room. Tell her you’re sorry. Say, “Eww! Go tell your mother!” Tear up. Throw up. Lock her in her room so she won’t get knocked up.
3. Know the lingo. Oh, the words you’ll need to master! Here is your glossary of words and phrases commonly associated with your daughter’s period:
Menstruation: The monthly process where a woman’s uterus sheds its lining that has been building up to prepare for a fertilized egg.
Period: A very common word for menstruation.
Vagina: Vagina (duh). There are certainly a lot of other words for vagina, but we prefer to stick to this one so your daughter is comfortable calling it what it is.
Pads: Commonly a starter period product. This is a strip of absorbent material with an adhesive backing that sticks to underwear and absorbs blood during your daughter’s period. Get the ones with wings. She’ll need to change her pad every 4 – 5 hours OR you can also get extra absorbent pads for overnight.
Liners: A lighter version of a pad (typically for the last 1-2 light days)
Tampons: A plug of soft material inserted into the vagina to absorb blood during your daughter’s period. On average, women use 14 per cycle (but some women use many more than that).
Light, Regular, Super, Super Plus: Various absorbencies of tampons. Always make sure your daughter is using the lightest absorbency necessary for that day of her period.
Applicator / non-applicator: An applicator is commonly used to insert the tampon into the vagina. Tampons have either a plastic applicator, cardboard applicator, or no applicator.
PMS: Pre-menstrual syndrome (typically cramps, bloating, heightened emotions).
Heating pad: Exactly what it sounds like. This helps with cramps.
Cramps: Partly caused by hormones, and partly caused by the contracting of the uterus as it prepares for the shedding of its lining. Cramps vary from woman to woman.
Uterus: An organ in a woman’s lower abdomen, where offspring is conceived and grows
Fallopian tube (BONUS!): The tubes in which the eggs travel from the ovaries (where the egg is produced) to the uterus, where it awaits fertilization or is shed from the uterus during menstruation.
Instructions for usage: don’t just say these words in order. “Fallopian tube” is not a sentence. Incorporate them into normal dialogue. Here is a sentence you can start with:
“This is a very exciting day! How do you feel? When I go to the drugstore, do you want me to grab you a heating pad in addition to pads / tampons? Hopefully the cramps won’t be bad, but just in case.”
4. Embrace the awkward. We loved this story about this dad’s reaction:
“One dad, in an attempt to break the silence and open the conversation up in his household, took an entire box of pads and stuck them all over his body and walked around the house with them stuck to his clothes. His daughters thought it was hysterical and realized instantly that their dad was ‘cool’ with things. (The next day – the same girls stuck an entire box of pads on his car) While it may seem like a complete waste of products – this family felt it was worth the expense!”
Remember, this is just the first of many “awkward” but important conversations you’re going to have with your daughter. Take note of how your daughter responds to your chat about her period. Eventually you’ll want to talk to her about having sex, birth control, and STI’s, and setting the tone and learning how she reacts during this conversation will be helpful.
5. Have a great attitude. Last but not least, here’s how to pump yourself up this Father’s Day for that walk down the tampon aisle to the cashier for your daughter:
It’s important that you are confident, positive, and own this first trip to the tampon aisle. You need to show by example that there’s nothing to be embarrassed about — that you can ask for help if you don’t know what to buy, check out with your head held high, and walk down the street comfortably with her tampons even though the plastic bag is most certainly see-through. Your lack of squeamishness will go a long way in setting a good example for her going forward.
We hope these 5 tips are helpful to you. Either way, you’ve earnestly made it through all of this period advice, which means you’ve got promise. Now go forth, and continuing being great Dads!
Happy Father’s Day!
Alex & Jordana