Helping Children with Nighttime Anxiety and Fear

From an evolutionary perspective, fears and anxieties surrounding being left alone at night are entirely normal and actually important. This innate fear would have kept our offspring safe, at a time when they would have been most at risk if left alone. While life has changed immeasurably as our species has evolved, this natural fear has not moved with the times. We know our children are safe from predators, warm, dry and comfortable tucked up in their beds at night and so do our children, when you hold a rational conversation with them that is. Their instincts and psyche often says otherwise though. 

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Fear of the dark is perhaps the most common fear in childhood (and a fear that many adults still possess – it’s estimated that around 10% of adults suffer from Nyctophobia – fear of the dark), it’s believed that the fear stems not from imagining monsters lurking in the dark – but from the fear of not being able to see what is around you, i.e: a lack of sensory input, which can leave children (and adults) struggling with the lack of awareness of their environment. Once again, this makes huge sense if you think of the fear in evolutionary terms. If you have a child who is anxious about going to bed, or being left alone overnight, my top recommendation is to always add a nightlight to their bedroom, to be left on all night (do make sure it gives off red light though – see HERE for why). I would also recommend adding plug in red nightlights in any hallways outside of their bedroom too, even if their bedroom door is closed, the thought of a dark hallway lurking the other side of the door can be problematic.

If the cause of your child’s nighttime anxiety seems less obvious, my recommendation would always be to look to the daytimes for the cause. This may seem illogical, after all – if the anxiety only presents, or is much stronger, at night – why would you look to the daytime as the source of anxiety? Quite simply, nights allow children to ponder more on their fears and worries, without the hustle and bustle and busyness of the day and daytime anxiety often manifests the most at night. If you think of a time when you yourself have been incredibly anxious about something, I would wager that the anxiety seems stronger at night, when you get into bed and have nothing else to focus on but the thoughts in your head. If the daytime anxiety is also linked to separation from you in some way (perhaps starting daycare or school, a new sibling arriving, or a divorce or separation where the child is physically separated from you while with their other parent for example), then the impact at night is likely to be stronger, not just because of the above reason – but it is also amplified because a further separation from you is enforced at night, when you sleep in separate rooms. The best way forward here is to focus on the underlying anxiety and ways to help your child to be calmer and more confident in the daytime (if you have a 7 year old or older, this is covered lots in my new BETWEEN book), the happier and more relaxed they feel in the day, the more likely they are to relax at night. 

If your child is scared of being separated from you at night for whatever reason, the simplest and most effective solution here is not to try to encourage the separation through a convoluted series of rewards, praise, leaving them alone for increasing amounts of time, or moving chairs away from their bed and the like, but to embrace their need for you and allow them the connection with you that they so desperately need. If it’s possible space wise, move them into your room temporarily, or move into theirs for a while. Stay with them while they fall asleep and if you do need to leave, reassure them you will be back as soon as they need you. Meeting a child’s need for connection is really the best way to help them to feel confident alone, you don’t make separation anxiety worse by staying with the child, on the contrary, you make them feel more confident when the separation is reduced. If you do want to slowly move towards your child settling more independently at bedtime (or overnight), then trying my pop in, pop out, or bedtime buddy idea in THIS article can help. I would also make sure that bedtime is not too early for the child. Very often parents try to get their children to go to sleep at a time that is not suited to their chronotype – simply, if you’re trying to get your child to sleep before their body is ready, then they are going to struggle to not only get to sleep, but stay asleep, too. If your child is three years or older, then I would aim for sleep onset to be between 8 and 9pm at night (with their bedtime routine starting around 45 minutes earlier). 

Finally, make sure your child has tools to help them with their anxiety, the bedtime buddy idea I mentioned previously helps here, but also look into using audiobooks, sleep relaxation recordings (you can find mine on Amazon, iTunes, Apple Music, Spotify) and relaxing sleep inducing music. Teaching children some simple breathing techniques (e,g: imagine their belly as a big colourful balloon filling up with air as they slowly inhale to a count of 4, and then slowly deflating as they exhale to a count of 8) and some grounding techniques (such as ‘I Spy Senses’ – where they play a game with themselves focusing on one thing they can hear, one thing they can smell, one thing they can touch/feel and one thing they can see) can really help too. It also helps here to have a conversation about anything that may be worrying or scaring them, such as something they have seen on TV, or heard other children talking about and helping them to differentiate between fantasy and reality and knowing what things exist and what things only exist in our minds and imaginations. Above all though, make sure your child knows that they can always talk to you about their fears, safe in the knowledge that you won’t ever belittle or ridicule them. 

Ultimately, the biggest solution to nighttime anxiety is time, fears, nightmares and separation anxiety are all outgrown as children get older (well – aside from the 10% of adults still scared of the dark that is!). Rest safe in the knowledge that, like most other parenting dilemmas, this is something that will pass given time.


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10 Top Tips to Help Shy, or Introverted, Children

Shyness is often seen as an undesirable trait in our society, especially in children. I was a shy child, in fact I’m a shy adult. I spent hours as a child waiting on the sidelines, looking in at others socialising with ease, wondering what it would be like to be them. As an adult I still struggle in social situations, but now I realise that my shyness is not a flaw. I’m an introvert and proud!

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So, what can you do if you have a shy child, or suspect that you are raising an introvert – to help them to embrace, not feel embarrassed about, who they are? Here are my top ten tips:

1. Don’t view shyness as a personality flaw. Most shy children are simply introverts and introversion is not a problem that needs to be fixed. Instead, it is much easier – and far more healthy for the child – to accept their personality and see the positives (introverts often possess heightened empathy and intuition, great imagination and an analytical mind. Introverts also tend to make great listeners and often have a great deal of focus as they grow).

2. Understand attachment theory. In order to feel safe to explore the world and everybody in it, children first need a strong attachment to primary caregivers who act as their secure base. A place that they can return to when the world gets too much, somebody to make them feel safe and supported, to diffuse anxiety and to give them the boost that they need to go out and explore once again. A shy child who ‘clings’ to their parents is doing exactly what they need to do to recharge and build the security that they need to branch out into the world.

3. Acknowledge that you cannot force the shyness out by pushing the child to do things that they don’t want to do. Forcing (however well meant) a shy child to go and speak to others, join in with play, order their own food, or pay in a shop, will not make them less shy. Flooding them with exposure will instead likely make things worse, increasing any social anxiety. Give the child opportunities to branch out on their own if they feel confident enough to do so, but be there to support them (and never pressure) if things don’t feel right.

4. Focus praise on effort, not outcome, especially in social situations. Instead of clapping and cheering when they do manage to speak to somebody, or put themselves in the spotlight, focus instead on the tiny moments where they were brave, regardless of whether they ‘succeeded’ or not. The time they put their hand up when somebody asked a question, but put it down again before they were chosen to answer is just as valuable – if not more so – than the time they stood up and spoke in front of a room full of people. 

5. Make sure that they know that you love them unconditionally and that you’re proud of them, no matter how they socialise with others. Shy children can struggle with their self-esteem, so need to know that you think they are wonderful as often as possible. Explain the difference between introverts and extroverts to them and help them to understand that there are all types of personalities in the world and that none of them are wrong or undesirable.

6. Stand up for them and speak out if others tease or berate them for their shyness. The next time a stranger says “what’s the matter with you? Are you shy?” – say “s/he just doesn’t feel like speaking right now, we all have days like that” and move on. Those small moments when your child feels understood and protected by you will make a huge difference in the future.

7. Be mindful of social situations and how your child will cope in them, but don’t hold them back because of your own anxieties and fears. If your child indicates that they would like to go to a group, or an event, then embrace their wish, regardless of any concerns you may have about how they will cope socially. They could very well prove you wrong!

8. Help your child with some stress and anxiety management techniques, so that they have something to help them to cope if/when they find themselves in unavoidable anxiety inducing situations. A simple breathing technique, visualisation, or fiddle toy (even just a hair band on their wrist to twiddle) can really help.

9. Build some quiet time into your child’s schedule. Introverts need time away from others to offload and recharge. Don’t be tempted to fill up all of the weekend, or summer holidays with busy activities and play dates, allow some days to have free time at home, with plenty of opportunities for art, music, reading and writing and all important solitude. 

10. Don’t swoop in and rescue them immediately. It can be tempting to hover and helicopter parent a shy, or introverted, child, but while you should absolutely be there, ready and waiting, to help and support on the sidelines, you should allow your child time to experience and resolve things on their own before swooping in to fix things for them – they may just surprise you!


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5 Ways to Encourage Optimal Baby and Toddler Brain Development

Are you wondering how you can best help your baby or toddler to grow and develop? How to encourage their brain, intelligence, language and physical skills? Perhaps you’re looking at the best developmental toys or activities to buy or do? Actually, it’s a lot simpler (and cheaper) thank you think! Here are the top 5 ways to grow and nurture your child to reach their full potential:

1. Hug them lots!

The best way to help to support your child’s development is to be responsive to their needs. When they cry, pick them up and try to avoid leaving them to cry alone. Babies and toddlers can’t self-settle. They need us to act as external regulators. Holding your baby in your arms helps to secrete hormones which grow the part of the brain responsible for emotion regulation. You can’t ever spoil a child with love or hold them too much!

2. Look after your own mental & physical health.

To be responsive to your baby’s needs, you need to meet your own needs too. This means that looking after your physical and mental health is a key part of helping your baby to develop. We live in a society that is not especially supportive of new parents, having a baby or toddler is hard work at the best of times – during a global pandemic it’s even tougher. If you are struggling do chat with your family doctor, or get in touch with an organisation who can help (I’ve tagged some in this post).

3. Expose them to music.

Music has a wonderful effect on the developing brain, it can help babies and toddlers to feel calmer and also helps with the development of language. You don’t need to have any musical skill or talent though, your child is not that discerning! Singing nursery rhymes (however off key), humming along to a radio station swaying with your baby or toddler in your arms, or making up your own tunes are just perfect.

4. Read to them.

The more words a baby or toddler hears, the larger their vocabulary and their literacy skills will be as they grow. Reading is a lovely way for partners to bond, for instance taking the role of reading a bedtime story every night. Don’t worry if your baby or toddler never looks at the pages, doesn’t seem to pay attention, or would rather eat the book, your reading will still have an impact!

5. Play with them.

Play is the primary tool of learning. You don’t need expensive developmental toys though, simple games of pat-a-cake or peek-a-boo are more than enough. Pull funny faces, blow raspberries and have fun!

Why We Should Use The Correct Anatomical Names for Children’s Genitalia

What should you call your child’s genitals?

The simplest, and most positive, answer is simply – their real names. That means:

For girls: Vulva (the outside part) and Vagina (the inside tube).
For boys: Penis and Testicles (the inside balls) and Scrotum (the outside sac).

This idea makes many parents cringe with embarrassment and disgust. This reaction is the very reason why it is so very important to use the correct anatomical terminology with children (and when I say children, I mean babyhood and up, it’s never too early!). The more adults use these terms around their children, the more likely children are to grow up without the cringe-factor that so many adults struggle with. There is nothing dirty, or inappropriate about the anatomical terminology.

Why else should you use the correct anatomical names? For girls in particular, other names can cause issues with body image and perception. For instance, terms such as ‘front bottom’, ‘wee wee’, ‘bum bum’ and similar, subconsciously imply that the vulva and vagina is somehow dirty and equates it with urine and poo, rather than sexual pleasure and conception/birth. This can absolutely impact the relationship a girl has with her body – and sexual organs – as she grows.

Finally, pet names – ‘floof’, ‘fanny’, ‘minnie’, ‘noonie’, ‘mary’, ‘fairy’, ‘lulu’, ‘willy’, ‘percy’, ‘bits’ and so on, are ambiguous. This means if a child is sexually abused, they may struggle conveying what has happened accurately to an adult. For instance a girl saying “he touched my fairy” may be misconstrued as somebody touching her doll without permission. Using the correct anatomical names is the best way to keep children safe.

Yes, it can feel awkward using the correct names at first, but you soon get over the embarrassment – and actually, it could have a positive effect on you too!


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Why Fear and Compliance is not the Same as Respect when Disciplining Children

Our society is obsessed with children respecting adults. As children get older, our focus on this respect for elders increases. We tolerate what we deem as ‘disrespectful behaviour’ from toddlers and preschoolers, but once children are of school age our tolerance wanes. We take their backchat, rudeness and refusal to listen or do what we tell them to do as an indication that they are lacking in respect for us and we meet it with punishments, chastisements and consequences. We are wrong.

Firstly, this apparent disrespect is actually an indication of immature brain development. It isn’t pre-meditated. It isn’t personal. It’s a young person struggling with big emotions and a lack of impulse control. We are the adult here, we need to meet their outbursts with graciousness and understanding, however triggered we may feel by them. Staying calm and mature doesn’t mean we are permissive, or ‘too soft’. It means we are well-informed, conscious of the underlying cause of the outbursts and the impact our response will have. 

Children need the same parenting whatever age they are, 2 or 20 (and anything in between). They don’t need “a firmer hand” as they get older (in fact they almost need more understanding and support!). They need us to be understanding and empathic. They need us to teach by being a great role model. They need us to stay calm and stay connected; these are the groundworks that will help children to learn best.
Punishment, shaming, most artificially imposed consequences and the like don’t earn respect from children, they create the very opposite of respect. They fracture the relationship and create fear of retribution. At best they cause short-lived compliance. They are poor educators and ineffective forms of discipline, whether you have a toddler or a teen. Never confuse fear and compliance with respect – they couldn’t be more different.

If this article has piqued your interest in gentle discipline, check out my new discipline book.  It is released under the title ‘The Gentle Discipline Book‘ in the UK and under the title ‘Gentle Discipline‘ in the USA and Canada. The book covers common tricky behaviours from babyhood right the way through to the teen years and how to cope with them in a gentle and effective way


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5 Ways to Become a more Playful Parent

Hands up if you struggle to be a playful parent? For some, being playful comes naturally, for others it can feel a little awkward and stilted. If you’re in the latter category, give these tips a try:

1. View play as a ‘must have’, not ‘nice to have’.

We are so busy with adult life, that playing with our children often sinks to the bottom of our to-do lists. Viewing play as important, not as time wasted that could be better spent elsewhere, is the way forward. 15 minutes playing with your child is infinitely more valuable than 15 minutes sending emails, or vacuuming the carpet.

2. Play at your child’s level, not your own.

What does this mean? It means not inventing mature games or activities that you think your child would like, or that you believe to be age appropriate or good developmentally. Watch and observe how your child plays and join in. It doesn’t have to make sense to you and it doesn’t have to have an obvious teaching moment.

3. Reconnect with your inner child.
As we grow we learn to be more self-conscious, we lose the value of play and we lose the skills to be great at it. Sometimes we need to go deep inside and remember how thrilling it is to be silly, how fun it is to lose ourselves in our imaginations. Dig deep and remember what you enjoyed at their age – did you like skipping/jump ropes, jumping in muddy puddles, Painting with your fingers? You’re not too old for those things now!

4. Make everyday chores more playful.
Invent a bedtime song, a tidying up dance, or a family race to get shoes on when it’s time to go out. Play can be incorporated into every aspect of family life. It doesn’t have to be a specific play time to make something more fun.

5. Get into role playing and drama.
Remember how fun it was to play schools, shops, or mums and dads as a child? Role playing/acting out different characters is such a lovely way to play with children, it’s also a great way to encourage them to do things they don’t usually want to do (e.g: pretending to be a dinosaur hunter when brushing teeth, or a grooming chimpanzee when brushing hair).


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How to Raise a Financially Literate Child

The following is a short excerpt from my book BETWEEN: A Guide for Parents of Eight to Thirteen Year Olds:

Arguably, the way we, as parents and carers, handle our own finances – the example we set to our tweens and what we teach them about money – will be the strongest influence on how they handle their own personal finances as they grow. I’ve always found it strange, and a little worrying, that this area is omitted from school lessons. After all, it’s something we all need to understand as adults and yet our tweens and teens are so ill prepared. I thought I had done a pretty good job when my children were small, until one day, at a festival, my then six- or seven-year-old pointed out a cash machine with a ‘Free money withdrawals’ sign. He called me over and said, ‘Look, Mum – they’re giving away free money. Quick, get some out!’. I spent the next half-hour explaining bank accounts, credit and debit cards and cash-machine withdrawal fees to him, pointing out that sadly, it wasn’t the money that was free, but the withdrawal.

Fast-forward a couple of years and I was sitting in the living room watching TV with another of my sons. An advert came on for a home-equity-release company. My son thought it sounded like a great idea and suggested that we should call the company and request they pay us some money. It took several minutes to explain to him that it wasn’t quite as simple as calling up and requesting free cash.

The financial pitfalls of the modern-day world are complex and many. From understanding payday loans to interest-free credit purchases, buy-now-pay-later schemes and companies offering to buy any vehicle (for considerably less than the market value), there is an urgent need for our tweens to understand the financial world they are about to enter into. And yet there is so little formal schooling on these issues. It’s vital, then, that parents and carers themselves raise their tweens with a sound financial education.

What does your tween need to know about money?
The best way to discuss money with your tween is to bring it up in discussions that happen organically – say, in response to an advert on TV or a real-life event. If you are mindful of the need to teach your tween about money, you will find plenty of opportunities to naturally talk about it.

Pocket money is an important way for tweens to learn about money experientially, as is giving them the opportunity to earn their own money. We’ll look at these ideas a little more later on in this chapter. For now, here’s a list of financial topics that I would aim for your tween to understand as they approach their teen years:

• The difference between a credit and a debit card.
• The difference between a credit balance and debt

• The difference between a prearranged and unauthorised overdraft.
• How interest rates work (for purchases and earning interest on savings).
• How to look at how much credit really costs (including payday loans and personal loans).
• The difference between renting a home and buying one (including how mortgages work).
• How to compare the cost of different items and services.
• How discount codes and coupons work and where to find them.
• How to run a monthly budget.
• How to plan savings (especially for an item or activity).
• How taxes work.
• Household bills and a rough idea of their cost.
• How investments work.
• Why gambling is so risky and why they are unlikely to win (including fruit machines, scratch cards and the like).
• How salaries work – how often they are paid and what the average salary is for a full-time worker in the country you live in.
• How sales work in stores and why they often aren’t as good as they appear (for instance, how the price of an item might be temporarily raised for a few weeks, so that it can then be cut dramatically for a sale, making the reduction appear more generous than it really is).
• How giving to charity and donations work.

So many adults today have a poor understanding of personal finance concepts, and I think this lack of knowledge – among other causes – plays a big part in the levels of personal debt and financial difficulties that many struggle with. We really must not leave our children’s financial instruction to their formal education because it is severely lacking in schools.

I passionately believe that all parents should teach their children to be financially literate and allow them to learn to earn, save, spend, donate and budget money in the safety of the family home from a young age. If we don’t, we are doing our children a huge injustice that may impact them negatively for many years to come.

If you have a tween, or soon-to-be tween, and you’d like to learn how to approach puberty, behaviour, education, relationships, screens, sleep, body-care, raising them to be an ally and more – then you may want to check out Between – *the* guide for parents of 8-13 year olds.

Available to order now in the: UKAustraliaUSA/Canada and Elsewhere in the world


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How will Covid Lockdowns Impact the Social Development of Babies and Young Children?

I have had so many questions recently from parents with babies and toddlers who were either born during, or shortly before, lockdown who are worried about their child’s developing socialisation skills and whether separation from friends, wider family and other babies and toddlers of the same age will have a lasting negative impact on their child’s ability to socialise when lockdowns lift.

I wanted to write this article to reassure all parents in this position that this is one thing that they need not worry about (because goodness knows we all have enough to worry about right now!).

Primary socialisation for babies and toddlers occurs within their immediate family unit and home. This is the most important type of socialisation, as it teaches children the norms, beliefs and ideals of the culture and society in which they live. In short, children learn how to behave around others because of their interactions with their primary caregivers and as such this type of socialisation is usually limited to the child’s immediate family and is most important to children from birth to five years of age.

The type of socialisation that takes place outside of a child’s immediate family and home is known as secondary socialisation. This is the sort of socialisation that takes place in baby and toddler groups, nursery and preschool, extended family and friends and the like. Secondary socialisation means learning new rules and understanding the actions of a much wider group of people (both of the same age and different – ie other toddlers and adults). Because young children learn to primarily socialise with their main, everyday, caregivers, secondary socialisation requires less learning and adapting from them. Basically, it tweaks what they already know from their time with us and builds on the most important foundation of primary socialisation. Secondary socialisation continues throughout life, into the teens and adulthood (you can read a little more on socialisation types and development HERE if you’re interested)

I hope you can see from this that the most crucial aspect of socialisation is that which happens within the child’s own immediate family – primary socialisation. Lockdowns, furloughs and home working (and the result that many parents are spending more time with their babies, toddlers and preschoolers) actually mean that for many children primary socialisation is more increased than it was in pre-Covid times.  Or, in other words, rather than worrying about a lack of socialisation because of lockdowns, the very reverse is happening. A baby and toddler who receives a large amount and quality of primary socialisation at home is actually likely to be more sociable by the time secondary socialisation eventually kicks in.

What about babies and toddlers who haven’t met wider members of their family yet? Or who haven’t yet started any type of daycare? The answer here is to give them time to adjust and settle when they do.

It’s likely you will see an increase in separation anxiety initially (see my video on this above), however it won’t last forever, keep everybody’s expectations realistic. New bonds will be formed and attachments will grow with time and patience. Until then, keep doing what you’re doing, safe in the knowledge that you are everything your child needs!


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5 Ways Dads and Other Carers Can Settle a Breastfed Baby

I’m often contacted by parents who are worried how their baby will settle when the mother is breastfeeding and can’t be around at sleep time (when the baby usually only settles to sleep on the breast). The following 5 tips can help:

1. Try to prepare in advance. Every time mum feeds to sleep play the same piece of white noise or alpha music (see mine HERE) and snuggle a lovey up to your baby. Also try a couple of drops of baby safe diluted aromatherapy oil on mum’s neck or collar for over 3mth olds. Hopefully your baby will link this music, scent & comfort object with mum and when they are used by dad/other carer the baby will be comforted by the sensory cues.

2. Don’t fixate on giving a bottle to sleep. Just because baby usually breastfeeds to sleep it doesn’t mean they actually need the milk itself to sleep. Often it is about connection. Giving a bottle before the bedtime or naptime routine and *not* expecting the baby to go to sleep with the feed takes the pressure off. Also, many babies will do better with open top ‘sippy’ style cups that they can lap milk from, than a bottle.

3. Have a nap/bedtime routine. Again, one that is practiced lots before the separation. Dad/carer should try to copy the routine as much as possible, doing the same things in the same order – e.g: bath, then massage, then read a certain story book etc..

4. Don’t be afraid to do your own thing. Contradicting myself on point 3! – don’t be worried if this routine doesn’t work when mum is not around. Instead, get creative and find something that works for you. It could be a car ride, a walk outside with the baby, dancing to music with a strong beat, cuddles skin to skin etc. Often dads/other carers find magic ways to get babies to sleep that mums can never copy!

5. Stay calm and nurturing through any tears and reset expectations. It’s unlikely naptime or bedtime will be as calm and easy as it is for mum and that’s OK. Expect tears. That doesn’t mean dad/carer is doing anything wrong, it just means that they’re not mum. It won’t always be like this. Until things change, it’s all about staying calm, deep breaths and holding and comforting the baby through their tears and upset. It is much better for your baby to cry while being held by a loving caregiver, than crying alone in a crib etc.

The NEWLY UPDATED Gentle Sleep Book – out now! If you would like to understand and learn how to improve your baby, toddler, or pre-schooler’s sleep WITHOUT cry-based conventional sleep training, this is the book for you!



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Why You Should Make a First Period Box for Your Tween Daughter (and what to include in it)

Making up a ‘first period box’ for girls, before they start their periods (known as menarche), helps them to feel prepared and by demystifying products that they may use, the whole experience becomes far less anxious for them. Making up a first period box also allows you to discuss the different selection of sanitary protection (san-pro) available, so that she can make an informed choice about her preferences.

Sanitary options include:
Cloth san-pro – These are sanitary towels or tampons made from fabric – usually cotton or bamboo – that are washed (in the washing machine on a regular cycle) and reused after each use. Towels usually have poppers and ‘wings’, so they can be easily fixed in place, and they come in lots of cool patterns and colours. While the initial outlay is more expensive than it would be for disposables, you soon save money.
Period pants – These are special knickers that have a moisture-wicking-and-retaining lining, meaning that no other protection is needed. They look remarkably like normal underwear and come in a range of sizes and colours. Like cloth sanpro, the initial outlay is expensive, but you save money in the long run. Sometimes they are used as an added layer of extra protection, like towels or tampons, to prevent ‘leakage’, which can be particularly useful while at school if your tween has an especially heavy or erratic flow (which is common initially).
Menstrual cups – Soft cups, usually made from silicone or latex, these are inserted into the vagina and collect menstrual blood. They need to be regularly emptied but can be washed and reinserted. They are usually cheap to buy.
Regular sanitary towels – These are the disposable stickon towels that most are familiar with, although you can buy special tween/teen-sized ones. Many of the main companies will send free samples if you request them on their websites, so your tween can find the one they are most comfortable with.
Tampons – Again, one of the two most mainstream choices, alongside regular sanitary towels. Here, your tween can choose between a tampon that comes with an applicator (a special tube that can make insertion easier) or a non-applicator type, where the tampon has to be inserted with the fingers. Once again, most of the well known manufacturers offer free samples on their websites.

What Should you put in a First Period Box?
Although several companies sell ‘first period’ boxes, I prefer to make my own, not only because it is cheaper, but because you can personalise what I included. Here are some ideas:
* A selection of sanitary protection.
* Some new comfy knickers (including spares to keep in their bag in case of any leaks).
* Some wipes, in case of any accidents and if hand-washing facilities aren’t available when changing protection.
* A hot-water bottle or heat pad, in case of discomfort.
* Some snuggly socks . . . just because (who doesn’t feel more comfortable in soft socks?). *A couple of bars of favourite chocolate
*A fun face mask (of the cosmetic, not Covid type).
*Some little motivational quote cards.
*A bottle of favourite bubble bath or shower gel.
*Some herbal or fruity tea bags, or hot chocolate sachets.
*A packet of tissues.
*A small gift – e.g: some hair ties or a favourite body spray.

And finally….*A book about puberty if she doesn’t already have one.

When Should You Make a Period Box?
It’s a good idea to make a first period box either before, or as soon as you see the first signs of puberty. I would aim to make one by the time your daughter turns 9 years of age, but don’t hold back giving it to her – or explaining the contents – until she starts her period though, the earlier she has it the better. Explain what the items are for and suggest she might want to keep some items in her school bag, just in case her periods begin while she is at school. Most importantly though, this means she will have everything ready, which means that if you are not around at the all important time, you can trust that she doesn’t have to try to find whatever she needs herself. This gives girls an element of control which I think is useful for helping them to prepare for their menarche.

This article was adapted from BETWEENIf you have a tween, or soon-to-be tween, and you’d like to learn how to approach puberty, behaviour, education, relationships, screens, sleep, body-care, raising them to be an ally and more – then you may want to check out Between – *the* guide for parents of 8-13 year olds. Available to order now in the: UKAustraliaUSA/Canada and Elsewhere in the world


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