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Choose a time when both of you and your child are relaxed. Tell her that you wish to talk about 'growing up', about how she is changing almost everyday. Ask her to share how she thinks she is growing and she may talk about some of the apparent physical changes. Take the cue, and proceed from external physical changes like pubic hair growth, development of breasts, to some internal changes, thereby introducing and explaining menstruation as a natural, normal phenomena that every girl experiences, somewhere between 10 - 16 years of age. You can use a book on the human body, one with good pictures, to explain the process. Provide her with as much detail as she is able to handle, and this she will herself indicate. At all times, try and use the commonly accepted terms for various body parts and functions.

For instance, for a 6 year old, it will suffice to say that every month, all older girls and women bleed a little, from an opening near where they pee, and that it is completely normal to do so. A 9 year old will appreciate that it is a monthly cycle, which occurs at puberty reminding women that they can have babies if they want to. During these days, a woman bleeds through her vagina and has to use some form of protection such as sanitary pads. Explain to her how sanitary pads are used. A teenager again, might want to know about menstruation even in greater detail and must be helped to do so.

Across all ages, at all times, emphasize that there is nothing dirty or shameful about having periods. Reiterate the importance of hygiene and appropriate protection during these days. Explain to her the possibility of slight discomfort that she may experience during her period. Also that every girl is different, and so is her menstrual pattern. Finally assure her that you are there to help her when it commences, and anytime thereafter.

This is just one of the ways in which to approach the topic. Mothers can surely find ways that they are comfortable with. And in the event that you feel that there is no way you can articulate these topics with your daughter, find an alternative, trustworthy resource, someone your daughter will also be comfortable with. One mother we met with seems to have resolved her dilemma with an effective alternative -

No way was I going to be able to talk to my daughters about sex and menstruation…so I took them to a counsellor who is a friend and she explained it all to them. After that, I also referred to the issue, but not that openly.
- Mother of two teenagers

Many of you mothers will empathize with this lady, since it is not easy to talk about such intimate topics, in a society such as ours which discourages openness while dealing with these issues. However, times are a changing, and what worked for us may not be the best for our children. They are bombarded with information and experiences like we never were at their age. Therefore, they are in greater need of parental support, so your involvement as a mother is invaluable.

Your efforts will go a long way in helping your daughter to cope with the transition and make her feel good about herself, ready and confident for the subsequent stages.

Having discussed when to talk about menstruation, and how to go about explaining it, let's understand what all has to be conveyed to your little miss.