It's a fact that these days girls are starting their periods earlier and earlier, sometimes even as young as 8. Whilst the average is around 12, one in eight girls now starts her period whilst she's at primary school.
So as parents, we need to have The Talk -- about puberty, periods and all that they involve -- way before we ever expected to.
It can seem strange if your little girl is still playing with dolls, but you need to do it. What if she were to start her period without understanding what's happening?
So what's the easiest way to talk periods with your pre-teen?
One useful way into this conversation is to ask your child what they know - hopefully they'll tell you and you can squash whatever rumours are flying around the playground. No, you don't get pregnant by kissing a boy. No, you won't grow black hairs on your arm like a tarantula.
Resist the temptation to give too much information or detail: answer your child's questions directly and honestly. They'll tell you now much they need to know. Talk about your own experiences growing up. Make it clear that they can ask you about anything.
Your library will have many books on puberty. One of the best is Hair in Funny Places by Babette Cole. The same author also wrote Mummy Laid an Egg, a great introduction to the facts of life. These are funny books aimed at slightly younger readers that get the information across without embarrassment.
A great toolkit for pre-teens is also the PoGo Pack (shown on the right). This is a little bag which your daughter can take on sleepovers and school trips, containing everything she needs if she starts her period. It's similar to a Nintendo DS carrycase, so it's discreet. My nine year old pronounced it "Very cool..makes me feel very grown up, and I'm not worried about periods now" Those of you with nine year old daughters will know that they don't dish out "Cool" very often, so that's high praise indeed.
This kit would also be useful if you're shy or are a single dad who doesn't have his own experience to refer to. It includes a clear fact sheet which you could simply read through with your child if you didn't know what to say.
What are your tips for The Talk with your pre-teen?