Menstruation, while a very natural part of life, is still deemed a taboo topic, leading to misinformation. Talking about menstruation can be easy and is absolutely necessary, especially with young menstruators. Some people can get their period as early as 8 years old and they might find the sight of blood alarming. There’s also the added confusion that may come from the barrage of information from their peers or what they might see on TV, in movies, or read online.
No one needs to fear menstruation as long as they understand why it is happening and what they can expect from this vital bodily function. We can help create a more comfortable and safe environment for young menstruators.
Be approachable – help young menstruators become comfortable with talking about their body and the many changes that they’ll go through especially during puberty. The best way to do this is to never be dismissive about their questions and be sensitive about what they’re going through. Ask them about what they’re feeling -- is there pain, discomfort? Where are they feeling these? How are they feeling about attending school or doing their chores? Maybe they’d like to rest but are too embarrassed to tell you. The more they see how open you are in understanding them, the more they’ll be able to share how they’re feeling, what they’re thinking, and most importantly, ask what they want/need to know.
Normalize talking about menstruation – real talk is unlike the movies where parents typically give their children “the talk” and pile on all the information about sex, pregnancy, etc. Educating young menstruators about their menstruation and the menstrual cycle requires more than one sitting. They need to understand what is happening to their bodies and why. This is absolutely normal and it doesn’t mean they’re sick and it absolutely won’t hurt. You can simply (and directly) explain that the bleeding happens because their body is preparing to have a baby; but when it doesn’t happen, it leads to the shedding of blood, which is their period. This typically happens every month but it may differ from person to person. It’s also important to avoid using labels such as “flower” to refer to the vagina or “girl flu” for their period. It’s best to be direct so they become more comfortable talking about this.
Initiate the conversation – as the adult, you should initiate the conversation. Never assume that young menstruators already know the information they need just because they’re not asking you about it. Even if they get some information from school, their peers or the internet, it’s still your responsibility to ensure that what they know is accurate. So it would be good to be informed yourself. If you have a child nearing puberty, it’s time to educate yourself now and prepare for their first period or menarche.
How to start the conversation:
- Ask what they know about menstruation – if it’s been already taught in school. This will give you an idea of what they know so far, and give you the opportunity to supplement the information.
- Share your experience of your first period. How and where did you find out, who was the person who taught you about what to do, what you felt and thought,, etc.
- Share books, websites, social media accounts that you trust and feel would be very helpful sources of information.
Once you’re already comfortable talking about menstruation, you can also gift your young menstruator with a “period kit.” This would be an excellent way for you to show different period-related products, explain how to use them, and most importantly, explain how to maintain good hygiene during this time. Having a period kit on hand will also give young menstruators extra confidence that they’ll always be prepared when they get their period.