How to talk to your daughter about her first period
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How to talk to your daughter about her first period

Setting time aside to talk to your daughter openly about her first period can make a massive difference, as the alternative is getting information from her friends or online, which could be false. You can help your daughter feel more prepared for her first period, by talking to her about the science, writes Vicki Buffery.

How to talk to your daughter about her first period

It may seem like it was five minutes ago you were helping her take her first steps, and now, like all parents, you may be wondering when is the right time to speak to your daughter about puberty and periods. You’ll know your daughter is about to start her period when: breasts have started to develop, discharge in underwear, the body has started to change shape and size, pubic and under arm hair has started to grow, body odour may be more noticeable, hair often becomes greasy, mood swings begin to be noticed, spots may start to appear on the face, chest and back, stomach, lower back and groin cramps can be experienced. Your daughter’s first period is a momentous event in her life, but it can also be a confusing time for young girls. When her period arrives, it’s important she feels prepared and is aware of what’s happening to her. Here are some tips to help your daughter feel more prepared!

Don’t be afraid to talk about the science.

Don’t be afraid to talk about the science. Although it sounds like an obvious thing to say, it’s worth talking to her about the basics of why we have periods, how the menstrual cycle works and the blood loss she’ll experience so she feels more comfortable and prepared.

Provide starter packs. It’s a good idea to give her some pads to keep in her school bag just in case.

How to talk to your daughter about her first period

Help build confidence

Help build confidence in protection. Once you’ve bought a pack, show her a pad, how she should position it and how to dispose of it afterwards. This should give her the confidence to do it herself. The same applies to tampons as they can be really confusing, especially as they come in both an applicator and non-applicator formats. One of the biggest worries many girls have is starting their period when they’re away from home or in school. Very often, wearing a panty-liner on a daily basis can build her confidence as it alleviates any fear that she’ll be caught unaware.

Go through the what-ifs! It’s also perfectly normal for her period to last a couple of weeks too, so again, it’s worth sharing this bit of information with her so she’ll know what to expect. Frequently asked questions to consider include: When will my periods start? Do all girls start at the same age? How much will I bleed? Will anyone else know I’ve started my periods? Do periods hurt? How long should each period last? How often will I have a period? Which products should I use? How do I use the products and how often should I change them? Can I still exercise or swim when I’m on my period?

About Vicki: Vicki Buffery is Lil-Lets’ resident expert on all things puberty and periods! For more advice and support visit www. becomingateen.ie or visit the BecomingateenIRL YouTube channel. Both are dedicated to providing additional support and advice to teenagers and young girls. Lil-Lets have also launched a committed, nationwide, Schools Programme designed to prepare Irish girls for puberty and their first period.

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Ask Sarah

Q I’ve heard a lot about the Paleo diet and as I am very interested in reducing the amount of processed foods and grain based meals my family eats, we are considering following this diet. From what I read it seems to be a back-to-basics type of eating. Is a Paleo diet safe for children? My kids are aged seven and nine.

A The Paleo diet is one of the most fashionable diets around at the moment. It is also known as the ‘caveman diet’ and is based on cutting out processed foods, starchy foods like bread and potatoes and eating more meat, vegetables and fruit.
As fad diets go, it is not the worst but there are some good and bad sides to it. Reducing the amount of processed foods we eat is always a good idea and by doing that you will usually reduce the amount of fat, salt and sugar you eat, which is a good thing! The problem with the Paleo diet is that it also cuts out dairy (on the basis that cavemen didn’t drink milk) and this means that the diet is very low in calcium. For this reason it is really not suitable for children who do need a lot of calcium for growing bones. How did cavemen manage without dairy? They ate a lot more food than we do (up to 10,000 calories per day compared to the 2,000 most of us eat). By eating that amount of food they were able to pick up just enough calcium from green vegetables and seeds. To put it in perspective, you would need to eat 16 servings of broccoli a day to get all the calcium you need. This is easier to do if you eat 10,000 calories per day rather than 2,000.
The other problem with the paleo diet is that it is not entirely based in science. Many of the Paleo diets out there say you should not eat wheat, even though we know that cavemen did in fact eat wheat and other grains. These diets also don’t recommend that you eat blubber and the big lumps of fat that were also a large part of the caveman diet!
A final problem is that many Paleo diets encourage people to cut out beans and lentils and to get their protein from meat and fish instead. Many studies over the last few years are clear that eating too much animal protein is linked with more cancer and heart disease. Eating some vegetarian meals based on beans and lentils is a great way to get your protein without always going for meat.
Is this a diet we should follow? I think there is a lot we can learn from the Paleo diets. We could all do with eating less salt, sugar and processed foods and adding in more nuts and seeds as well as more vegetables. However, I think following a strict Paleo diet could lead to low levels of calcium and vitamin D and so it is not suitable for children or teens and adults would need to think about a calcium supplement.

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Ask Allison

Q My sister-in-law and I both work three-day weeks and we help each
other out with child minding on our working days, which up until recently has worked out really well. Between us, our kids are aged between five and nine years – the problem is that it’s now become quite apparent that we have very different parenting styles. I prefer my two daughters (seven and nine) to have a structured day. For example, in my house, we have allocated times for television and iPads, etc. My sister-in-law, however, lets the kids run loose after school – homework is ignored and my kids end up wired after eating sugary treats all afternoon. I am considering looking at after-school childcare for the kids, but I’m worried that this is going to cause a family argument. Is there a diplomatic way that I can ask my sister-in-law to introduce some discipline into her child-minding days? It certainly doesn’t do her two kids any harm when I am minding them in my own house!

A
In a word, no, there is no diplomatic way to do this as it may very likely seem like your saying that your parenting style is better than
hers. As L’Óreal says, ‘now here comes the science bit.’ Dr. Kaylene
Henderson, a child psychiatrist, wrote a very interesting blog about ‘the
science behind the Mummy Wars’. She explains that before she had
children of her own she hadn’t been aware of how parents have a
very specific sense of the right parenting style. She also found that parents could be very definite in defending their chosen parenting style. Dr. Henderson, who describes herself as a curious, scientific, open-minded person, was surprised at how defensive parents could be and, at times, of their judgemental attitude towards each other. She explained the neurology of the Mummy Wars; okay, I’ll need you to bear with me for a second. Warning; I’m about to use some neuro-techie language.

Why do we judge each other?
As we have all had different experiences, this means that we all have very different memories stored in our brains. Most of our memories are ‘explicit’ memories – these are ones that we can recall easily such as important dates that mean something to us; important birthdays, special events or stories of and about our lives.
There is another type of memory called ‘implicit’ memory that plays a
key role in our parenting. This type of memory is the stuff that you do on autopilot. Psychologists call these heuristics or rules of thumb –
such as tying your shoelace, or driving your car (once you have learnt
to do both first!). Otherwise we’d really waste a huge amount of time
pondering over tasks that we have readily available to us. This seems to be where the science bit of our parenting style kicks in. This implicit memory goes all the way back to when you were an infant being parented by your parents. This is when you started the process of storing up how they did it into your memories.
Unless you make a conscious choice and effort to parent differently, what you saw and unconsciously learnt will be your automatic go-to parenting style.

We learn habits
This can really kick into gear when we feel our parenting style is
being mirrored or highlighted by disapproval from another parent. I know the cold sweat you feel when your child decides to make their outstanding bad behaviour performance at, of course, the most public and worst time. The implicit autopilot of how your parents dealt with these outbursts will flow unconsciously from you if you haven’t worked super hard to be aware and consciously change the old habits.
What’s happening for the on-looking parent is that they see you doing something they are used to doing, but you are doing it all wrong. Simply, because that is not how they know how to do it.

Find a way that works
You both have different parenting styles – who is to say which type is correct? You just need to know what works best for your family and that’s the bottom line. The irksome feelings won’t go away. You can talk to your sister-in-law, but I’m adding a caveat that it would be hard not to hurt her feelings. What we’re possibly looking at is that you prefer a more structured form of parenting, whereas your sister-in-law has a more permissive style. I’m not sure the two styles can mix, the mixture is a bit like oil and water.
If a collaborative shared form of parenting style can be agreed upon, then that is great, but our learnt hardwiring may prove difficult to change despite the intent to do so.
Perhaps, your own instinct of changing childcare might work best for you. In terms of making childcare work; the fit is ultimately the most
important aspect as you want a cohesive congruent feeling of the other caregiver to just ‘getting it’, like in any good partnership. Best of luck
with this and I wish you both well.