When is the right age to get a first period? Is there even a correct time? Most young people will get their first period between ages 11 and 14, but anytime between eight and 16 can be considered normal and common. Dealing with a first period at an age as tender as 11, as well as the puberty and physical symptoms that come along with it, can be overwhelming, alarming, and possibly even scary for your daughter or child. Here’s our helpful guide of tips on what to do when your daughter or child’s period starts at 11. You might be wondering if this is considered an early period. Let’s get this out of the way first–yes, it’s normal!
Since the range of ages that children get their periods is wide and expansive, it’s probably better to start talking to your daughter or child about periods earlier so that they know what to expect and can feel comfortable going into puberty. Generally, it’s better to talk about periods before they happen. If you’re struggling to figure out how to broach the topic, there’s no need to worry or feel guilty– puberty is a sensitive topic, and many parents can feel awkward bringing it up with their children.
The Mayo Clinic suggests that “the earlier you begin talking to your child about the changes to expect during puberty, the better. Don’t plan a single tell-all discussion. Instead, plan on a series of conversations.” This will help normalize the topic in your household, and create an environment in which your child feels comfortable coming to you with questions and concerns.
Extra credit: Download our free period guide to share with your teen and learn more about what to expect for their first period and throughout puberty.
You can start the conversation by asking your daughter or child if they know what periods are, and if they don’t, explain. Give them practical advice for real life questions– how to use a tampon? Will it hurt? What causes a period? When do most people get their periods? Will everyone around me have their period too? How long does it last? This is also a great time to remind your child that all periods and bodies are different, and that if they got their first period but their friends didn’t (or vice versa), that doesn’t mean that something is wrong with them. Everybody is simply on their own path, and everybody’s body is different.
Dr. Melissa Holmes, an OB/GYN, advises not to keep anything around periods a secret, and to speak normally and frankly about them with your daughter or child. She recommends using the correct words around body parts (vulva, vagina, and so on), and to remain calm, neutral, and not make anything around periods seem “bad.” (Learn more about why there’s no need for period slang.)
Topics you can discuss with your child about periods are:
- The facts of what is happening in their body
- How to use a pad, tampon, menstrual cup, or period underwear for teens
- Packing and preparing a period emergency kit
- The colours of their period and what they can mean
- Signs and symptoms of their period approaching
- Period cramps, Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS), and how to deal with them
- How to prevent period leaks in school
The normal age range for children to get their first period is anywhere between nine and 15, with the average age falling right around 12. If your child gets their first period at 11, there’s no need to worry– they are right on track. That said, if their first period arrives at 11, they may be getting it a bit before the rest of their classmates, and this may make them feel strange or self-conscious. Be sure that your child knows that their classmates will be catching up to them soon, and that their body is on time for them.
Your daughter or child’s first period is a chance for you to guide them through this transitional time. Make sure that they know what to expect before they get their period, and walk them through the topics outlined above. Make sure they know about the tools in place to help them through their period, from a pad or tampon, to menstrual cups or leakproof panties. Tell them why there’s no need for them to use period slang. If your child is getting their first period at 11, they may feel scared and worried when it first happens. It’s your job to make sure they’re ready and know what’s happening in their body.
It’s also important to note that your child’s first period (and the upcoming periods during puberty) could be irregular. Your child’s period can last anywhere from one to seven days, and then they may not get a period again for several months. This is completely normal as their body gets used to the new influx of hormones coming in from puberty. At 11, their body is growing and changing radically– this is a time of major shift and transition, and they need all the support and guidance they can get. If you have any concerns, have a chat with your doctor.
If your child begins experiencing signs and symptoms of puberty before age eight, this is known as precocious puberty. This can be caused by a number of factors, from hormone production levels to infections and diseases. In any case, experiencing puberty at a very young age is typically not common or normal, and if you see your child developing breasts, growing pubic and armpit hair, and, yes, menstruating before the normal age range for puberty, it may be time to see a doctor.