Growing up is hard – on parents. You never quite know where the time went, do you? You don’t remember when your baby’s interests shifted from birthday parties to slumber parties; from trains and toys to pre-teen boys. But somewhere through the years, between the skinned knees and the million tantrums, your little princess grew up. And now there’s no going back.
Soon, you’ll be dealing with raging hormones, fiery fits of rebellion and accusations that ‘you never understand’. They call it puberty – a curious land that unleashes 100% of your child’s inner devil and tests 200% of your tolerance. It’s not all bad, though. It’s also the threshold of something beautiful, the dawn of a new chapter in your daughter’s life.
Your daughter’s first step into adulthood will be marked by the arrival of her first period – something known as menarche. It’s as she approaches menarche that you should draw her close and explain to her the significance of periods. It’s not easy being on the brink of adolescence, teetering between childhood and adulthood. And it can be even more unnerving to see a single red stain on the underside of your underwear when you’re not prepared.
It’s important that you educate your daughter about menstruation, its implication and its role in a woman’s life. Inculcate a practice of open conversations, so that she turns to you for confidence, guidance and comfort.
Menarche is usually preceded by two indicators: the appearance of breasts, and hair growth in the underarms. When you observe that these have taken form, you’ll know that menarche will arrive within about three to six months. Menarche typically occurs between the ages of 12 and 14, but there’s a surprising new trend that is emerging amongst urban Indians today.
Imagine seeing a green stain on your sock and not knowing where it came from. That’s probably what a girl who experiences an early menarche feels like; not knowing how her underwear acquired a distinct bloodstain in the shape of Italy. Many of these children are as young as eight, and too young to have been educated on menstruation.
Early menarche has become a common occurrence today, and though a scientific explanation for it hasn’t been established, doctors are convinced that it is linked to childhood obesity. An abundance of calories can stimulate hormones, and can trigger the onset of menarche earlier than expected. There are also theories that fortified foods have a role to play in skewing the hormone composition in the body.
But the biggest culprit, sexologists say, is the idiot box that adorns your living room mantle. Children who watch sexually explicit content are known to mature faster, both psychologically and physically, because their hormones are sent into a tizzy.
Your daughter may bloom early, on time, or late. It doesn’t matter when she does. What does matter, though, is that she is prepared. Have your first heart-to-heart with her when she is about seven. Be tender and gentle, without going into the technicalities. Remember that she’s young and impressionable. Explain to her that a period is a gift from God, which blooms one day to become a baby.
As your daughter approaches adolescence, delve into the science behind menstruation. It’s a time when she will be naturally curious about the opposite sex, and it is important that she is empowered with the right information.
Ha! You wouldn’t be a parent if you didn’t worry. It’s healthy to be concerned. If you do your job well, your child will find her way into teenagerdom, just fine. But if only there was a way to ban this growing up thing.