Discussing Menstruation with Your Teen
Menstruation can be a very scary thing for young teens. If they know about it at all they likely know only that it involves blood and pain, and for teens who have not had their first period this can seem like an intensely personal, frighteningly unique and potentially embarrassing event. Parents of teens should strive to discuss menstruation before a girl’s first menstrual period, and to do so in private, with “props” and in a positive light which will help impart information without irrational fear.
Discussing In PrivateRegardless of the fact that menstruation is a totally natural process, very few teens want to discuss it in public the way they might mention an ear infection or how long their hair grows. Menstruation involves the reproductive system so from the start it is a more personal topic that deserves the respect of privacy. Generally mothers talk to their daughters about menstruation, and doing so during a girls-only dinner or “girls’ night in” can help to make it a special chat. Teens may not particularly want to have this conversation in public, such as at a restaurant where others could overhear, so arranging to talk in the privacy of your own home is probably best. Also, make sure that you do truly talk and don’t fall into lecture mode. Allow your teen to ask questions and remind her that you are available any time she has another question or concern.
Discussing With “Props”If a teen has not yet had her first menstrual period it can be hard for her to understand exactly what menstruation is all about. For example, she may know that there will likely be “pain” associated, but she will not yet understand how severe, when it will strike, how long it will last, what she can do to relieve it or how it will affect her regular schedule. Bringing along concrete items such as tampons and sanitary napkins will at least allow her to interact with these objects before she needs them. In fact, giving her a box of each to have on hand for when she does get her period may help her feel more in control.
Discussing In A Positive LightIt can be very easy to fall back on negative depictions of menstruation: PMT, cramps and bleeding are not necessarily fun events. However, try to impart to your teen that menstruation is a truly positive cycle. It not only means that a young woman is maturing, but it is related to giving life. Discuss with your teen what menstruation means (that a young woman can now become pregnant) and your own thoughts on teen sex, sexuality and pregnancy. This may become a perfect springboard for a discussion of birth control and house rules regarding romantic relationships. The same can be said for the opposite – while you are discussing sex or birth control you can segue into a discussion of menstruation. This may be particularly appealing if you are speaking with a boy and wouldn’t otherwise bring up menstruation on its own.
Menstruation can be wondrous and worrying at the same time, so arming teens with information before they need it should help keep everyone calm. And try not to wait for your teen to come to you – be bold and broach the subject on your own.