Tampon-Talk. Girls fear it and mothers dread it, but it doesn’t have to be so hard. In addition to being a sexual health educator, I fancy myself somewhat of a comedian and by the end of one of my Period-Prep workshops, girls are rolling with laughter and moms are eager to share their stories. Comedy and storytelling have amazing powers and can help any mother master the art of all things vagina, including instructing our daughter’s in inserting a tampon.
Every woman has a tampon story to tell. Some are terribly sad, some uneventful, and some are surprisingly hilarious. These stories deserve to be told and are extraordinarily useful tools for starting historically awkward conversations like Tampon Insertion 101. These are some of the more common themes I’ve heard, which you can share with your own daughters.
her first tampon: Instructions to demonstrations
The Show and Tell
This scenario most typically happens when a girl needs to figure out how to use a tampon for the first time ASAP, thanks to a surprise visit from Aunt Flo before some event: swimming, gymnastics or any other sport that involves skin-tight uniforms. Frantic girls can be found in bathrooms, searching wildly for their vaginas and discarding unsuccessful tampons like the shells of a peanut. Mothers, hovering just outside the stall whisper, “Are you OK?” or “How’s it going in there, sweetie?” or “Are you getting any closer? Your swim meet starts in 6 minutes!”
As things get down to the wire, some mothers will make the desperate decision to drop drawers, and give a 3-D demonstration. And you thought talking about vaginas was awkward—try giving a full-blown vagina show and tell. Embarrassing? Yes, but an amazing opportunity to bond with your daughter and for her to see just how much you love her (she might think you’re just trying to embarrass her, but when she’s twenty, she’ll get it).
The step-by-step involves a girl in a bathroom wondering how to use a tampon, with a mom shouting instructions from the hallway, face smashed up against the crack of the door to better be heard.
Mom: “Just… just find the biggest hole down there and stick it in – wait, no! Not the biggest hole, the second biggest hole!”
Mom: “Find the one just under your clitoris and past the hole where your pee comes out—it’s hard to see, but it’s there. Use your fingers to feel for it.”
Daughter: “Huh! What’s a clitoris? And double ewww. I’m not going to touch myself there!”
Mom (curses self for leaving clitoris out of the puberty talk): “It’s just your vagina. If you want to find the hole, touch the damn thing!”
Daughter (3 minutes later): “Ok, I found it! I’m unwrapping the tampon and am going to try to put it in.”
Mom: “Don’t take the cotton thingy out of the plastic thingy! Stick the plastic thing up your vagina and then press that skinny stick and the cotton part will shoot out like a bullet and stay up there.”
You get the picture. It’s complicated.
This method is arguably the most invasive of the bunch and basically involves a mother getting up close and personal with her daughter’s junk. I’ve instructed scores of girls on how to use a tampon, but never have I had to put a tampon in another person’s body (I’m hoping to keep it that way). My daughters, at 6 and 8 years old, have heard plenty of my stories and lurked in my bathroom enough times to know the low-down on tampons, but should my motherly obligations ever require me to perform The Do-It-Yourself technique, without a doubt, I will show up and suit up, tampon in hand and ready to roll.
how to teach your daughter to use a tampon
In all seriousness, girls do need specific guidance when trying out tampons for the first few times. Here are a few pointers to give your daughter specific and helpful advice on how to insert a tampon:
1. FIGURE OUT WHAT’S WHAT.
Advise that she find her vaginal opening and to insert her finger as far as it will go (wash with soap first) before trying to insert the tampon. Once she finds the opening and understands her own anatomy, which can be the hardest part, it will be much easier to start the process and save her the frustration of poking herself a million times.
2. USE VISUALS.
Show her a diagram with a side-view of the female reproductive system and point out the angle of the vagina and how it slants towards the spine. It helps if she holds the tampon at a 45-degree angle as she inserts it.
3. BE SPECIFIC.
Be sure to tell her to insert the tampon into her vagina as far as it will go (without causing pain); if her tampon is even remotely sticking out of her vagina, it will cause discomfort and possibly pain. It’s also important that she knows that the applicator must be inserted all the way into her vagina before she pushes the tampon out.
4. START SMALL (and PLASTIC).
Plastic applicators are the easiest to use, and be sure to buy small tampons geared towards the tweens and teens.
5. TEACH SAFE TAMPON USE.
Fortunately, toxic shock syndrome is rare these days, but it’s still important to teach girls to use tampons safely. Specifically: use the lowest absorbency possible; change tampons every three hours; don’t leave tampons in over night; consider using tampons for just a few days; and wash your hands.
These aren’t the only methods employed and some girls get no help at all. Whatever your technique, any help at all can go a long way and bravo for trying. Consider having a girls’ night, with several mother-daughter pairs clad in jammies and eating pizza – the group dynamic is fun and can significantly increase the quality of the conversation. You can do it, and don’t forget how to tell them to take the damn thing out!