As a sexual health educator, I’ve found that the vast majority of girls are unsure of how to handle and manage their periods. And many mothers struggle as well. Knowing how to talk about periods and what information to provide during this potentially awkward conversation can be daunting and stressful.
The questions I’ve heard in my period-preparation workshops range from informed to totally clueless. I’ve heard that having a period is a necessary means to pass kidney stones and that urine and menstrual fluid both exit from the vagina… there was also a question about human eggs and whether they are the same size as chicken eggs! Much of the confusion is based on things they’ve assumed or heard, so be sure to encourage your daughter to ask questions.
How to Prepare Your Daughter for Her Period:
Here are some ideas that can help mothers talk about periods and go beyond the basics to be sure their daughter is prepared.
1. Keep science to a minimum.
Girls need to know the basic biology of menstruation, but keep this part short and sweet. Be sure to cover why women get periods – this can be a simple answer, like, “When a girl gets her period, it means that her body has become biologically capable of having a baby.” If willing and able, this can also be a great opportunity for mothers to elaborate on the topics of reproduction and childbirth.
2. Focus on logistics.
Beyond the basic descriptions of products available and how to use them, girls are most concerned with the nuances of daily use, and what-if scenarios. When considering how to discuss periods with your daughter, consider this list of frequently asked questions and the answers to them.
- Can I wear a pad when I play sports or swim?
Definitely not for swimming, but yes for other sports unless her uniform will not allow for it (volleyball, gymnastics, dance, etc.).
- What should I do if I get my period at school and I don’t have any pads or tampons?
During your talk about periods, help your daughter come up with a list of people or places in her school where she can go for supplies and support. To avoid this situation entirely, assemble a period kit for her locker that contains pads and tampons, unscented wipes for clean-up, a pair of rolled up black leggings, and clean underwear.
- What if I have to change my pad/tampon during class and I don’t want anyone to know about it?
This can be tricky depending on the rules of her classroom and where her locker or cubby resides. Spend some time brainstorming different ways to be discreet and how to handle different situations. What can your daughter do if the teacher won’t let her go to the bathroom? How can she get the pad/tampon from her backpack without everyone seeing? If need be, consider calling the school to ask for help. Luckily, tampons and pads come in compact sizes, perfect for stashing in a pocket, sock, or even a bra.
- What if I can’t get my tampon in?
Tampon-talk requires some extra time and elaboration as girls tend to be squeamish about vagina-talk. Several mothers have offered up humorous anecdotes detailing their attempts to demonstrate proper technique! One mother asked me how she could teach her daughter to find her vaginal opening. The vulva can be a mysterious thing to girls who are unfamiliar with its parts. Show your daughter a labeled medical diagram of a vulva (find one on-line and print it) and encourage her explore her own vulva in private to better know it’s parts and functions.
3. Prepare for the worst.
If a girl finds herself in a situation where she has no access to pads or tampons, suggest ways to improvise. Napkins, paper towels, rolled up toilet paper, and even unlikely items such as socks or cotton headbands. How can she handle embarrassing leakage? Together, think of solutions and strategies to help her be ready for those inevitable period mishaps.
Believe it or not, having “The Period Talk” can be a fun experience. It can provide some great mother-daughter bonding time!
Don’t forget to leave time for questions, and for additional resources, Kotex has an excellent FAQ page.