Although sex education is taught at school, it is important for a young girl to have her parents explain puberty to her. It can be a sensitive subject and girls - and even some parents - are probably going to feel embarrassed about 'the talk'.
The question is when and how to approach the topic. What is the right age to bring it up? You have to find the balance between letting children be children and leaving it too late.
Girls usually start their period around 12 years old, but it can sometimes be as late as 14, or in unfortunate circumstances, as early as 9. You don't want to put it off to the point when they start their period before you speak to them about it, as it can leave them feeling scared that there might be something wrong with them.
There are a few ways to help determine the right time:
1. If you are the child's biological mother, think back to how old you were when you had your first period. It might be a good guide as to when your daughter might start.
2. When does your child's school start teaching about sexuality? It might be useful to coincide the same schedule.
3. How sexually aware is your daughter already? Some children pick up and learn about these things earlier than others. If your daughter is mature enough, you can probably explain it to them at a younger age.
I would think the best time would be about 10-11 years old, but it is up to you to determine when is best for your child.
Once you have decided when, it is then a question of how. Do you sit down and have a serious talk, or do you approach it more casually?
Sometimes 'scheduling' in a conversation can make a child feel nervous. They might get more and more worked up as they wait for the dreaded moment. Also, to just announce it, could all be a bit sudden.
Why not try slipping it into conversation? For example, if you are the mother (rather than the father), you could say something like 'oh my back aches; it must be that time of the month again', and then go on to say how your daughter will experience something similar in times to come.
You could take her out shopping to buy tampons/sanitary napkins for yourself, and explain that she will be needing them soon. If you're out girl shopping, you could also pay a visit to the public loos, and point out the dispensers, and what they are for.
Another option would be to offer help with their science/biology homework, then you have a good excuse to start the discussion in a non-invasive way.
Typically it is preferable for the mother to have this conversation because they have personal experience. If you are a single father, however, this method might be a particularly useful way for fathers to give guidance. If you feel awkward or unable to give the appropriate advice, you can always ask a female relative to lend a helping hand.