Empower your menstruating teen
For starters, stay calm, take a deep breath, and reassure your preteen or teen that periods are completely normal and happen to about half of the people in the world. Even though you as a caregiver might be internally freaking out, be as calm as possible. Your preteen or teen is probably feeling mixed emotions. Now is your time to be their rock as they navigate this new world.
There’s no one ‘right’ way to do this. Just try to be there for your preteen or teen, and be supportive, open, available, and reassuring.
Explain what’s happening
Reassure your preteen or teen that life doesn’t need to stop each time they get their period. They can still go out, play sports, swim, etc. Aim to empower your preteen or teen with the facts. Use anatomically correct words like vagina, ovulation, and uterus. Explain what a period is and what your preteen or teen can expect each time they get their period.
Tell your preteen or teen it’s normal to have mild cramps, back pain, or tender breasts before or during their periods. They can ease the pain by putting a heating pad on their lower belly or back, and taking non-prescription pain-relievers containing ibuprofen, naproxen, or acetaminophen. If they are experiencing more significant pain that is not controlled with home remedies, support them in discussing with a medical provider who can help. Go over things like leak prevention, and how to use a pad or tampon. If you haven’t talked about sexual health and activity yet, now is the time to start!
If you’re struggling with having this talk, you can reach out to your preteen’s or teen’s doctor, make an appointment, and talk together about stages of puberty and typical adolescent development. BLOOM also has conversation starters below you can use to help make these conversations easier with your young person.
It’s common for periods to come pretty irregularly for the first two years. Reassure your preteen or teen that they may or may not get a period every month and that’s their body’s way of adjusting. Remind them they can track their period and can always come to you or talk with the doctor if they have any doubts or questions.
Have a first period kit ready
If you haven’t talked with your preteen or teen about period products already, now is the time. Many people don’t feel comfortable using tampons at first, so it’s a good idea to have a selection of pads, liners, or period underwear ready to go. As a caregiver, you can get prepared by reviewing the different products available and how to use them. Suggest that your preteen or teen keeps a pad or two in their bag, just in case their period comes when they’re at school. You could also have your preteen or teen keep a change of underwear and pants in their backpack or locker.
You and your preteen or teen can decide together which supplies to have on hand. Explain to your child that there’s a variety of options and they can try different ones and see which they like best. If your preteen or teen wants to use a tampon or menstrual cup, you’ll need to teach them how to insert it and let them know about the importance of changing tampons regularly throughout the day. Start by reading the instruction booklet and then you can help your preteen or teen to practice. BLOOM has several videos to help you and your preteen or teen learn the process. The first few attempts to put in a tampon or menstrual cup can be challenging! Reassure your preteen or teen that this is totally normal. If it continues to be a struggle, it may be best to take a break and try again later.
Answer their questions
Be open, encourage your preteen or teen to ask you questions, and listen to what they say. Let your preteen or teen know that a first talk is not the end of the conversation, they can always come to you with questions about anything.
Your preteen or teen may feel excited about getting their period and becoming an adult. They may also feel uncomfortable or anxious. Acknowledge and validate those feelings. See if you can get your preteen or teen to open up about any fears or concerns, so you can address them. You might want to share your experiences about getting your period, while acknowledging that all bodies are different.
Be Period Positive
Make an effort to present menstruation from a positive perspective. Try to avoid saying things like “the curse” or “periods suck” and any other negative comments related to menstruating. Your preteen or teen may be scared there will be lots of blood rushing out of their body. Talk with them about the amount of actual bleeding and how it’s different from bleeding when you cut your hand. The total amount of blood in one period is likely to be around 3-8 tablespoons, and it takes several days to come out. You can pour that amount of fluid into a cup to reassure your preteen or teen that it isn’t much.
Talking about periods shouldn’t be one big talk at a particular age. Start the conversation early and have a series of talks, building on your child’s understanding. Young people of all genders need to learn about periods!
Look for teachable moments that give you an opportunity to talk about periods:
- Your child sees a tampon and asks what it’s for
- Your child asks about puberty or changing bodies
- Your child asks where babies come from
- You’re at the store buying pads or tampons
- Advertisements for sanitary protection
- TV show storylines that cover the issue
- Sports stars and celebrities discussing issues around menstruation
- Social media campaigns about periods
All of these give you a ‘way in’ to start a discussion about menstruation.
Start the discussion by asking your preteen or teen how much they already know about periods. This way you won’t be met with an eye-rolling response when you start talking about something they already learned. Answer questions simply and directly, and use the real names of body parts. You can refer to our Period FAQs for common questions and answers.
Try talking about your own period experiences, as a teen and as an adult, to help your preteen or teen relate to the subject in a more personal way. If you’ve never had a period you could talk about something that happened to a friend at school or a celebrity who has mentioned periods in an interview. Keep the story positive or at least with a positive outcome, to avoid causing unnecessary fear or panic. Your preteen or teen needs you to explain what’s going on physically and what they need to do. It can help to think of it like anything else you would explain as a caregiver, from driving a car, to skincare.
Period talks, texts, and letters
Your period “talks” don’t have to be a face-to-face conversation. Many preteens and teens often feel more comfortable addressing their feelings by text or WhatsApp, so be open to communicate about periods via messaging if that works better. Car conversations can also be more comfortable for some people. A letter allows you to say all you want to, and gives your preteen or teen a chance to digest the contents at their own pace, in private.
If the period talk doesn’t go well…
It might be that your preteen or teen is embarrassed or shy and not ready to talk with you about something so personal. Even if this happens, it’s likely they have questions and feelings to discuss. Let them know that you’re always available to talk (or text) when they feel ready.