By: Ava Skolnik
The first time any young women has their period is a unique event, and may range from thrilling to terrifying. No matter how a young person feels about their period, it’s important to talk to your child about it, while being open and honest about what menstruation is.
I was an after-school mentor for a group of 7th and 8th grade girls in Harlem, New York. The girls kept asking questions about their periods and when we talked about what they wanted a lesson on, they unanimously said, “periods!” I thought this was a great topic and prepared accordingly, with a fun YouTube video and discussion questions. What I hadn’t prepared for was the immense lack of knowledge within the group, many of whom had already experienced their first period.
Here’s what I learned about what we should be asking teens and what we should make sure they know before their period starts in order for them to feel more comfortable and prepared:
- Ask them what they know about periods and puberty: Starting the conversation open ended can help you gauge how much or how little your teen knows about menstruation. This can give you good insight into how to broaden their knowledge or whether you should start with the basics of menstruation and puberty. The amount of knowledge may also differ depending on the age of your child. No matter what age, it’s good to see what they’ve learned already.
- Myth busting: Be prepared to be a myth buster! There are a lot of myths and errors about what puberty and menstruation is. It’s good to listen to what your child has heard, and provide medically correct information to any myths.
- Normalize: One thing that can be particularly scary to teens is that they think they’re the only one going through puberty and getting their period. Normalizing the experience and explaining that it’s a normal body process that females go through can aid in the shock and scariness about getting their first period.
- Explain the menstruation cycle: Starting a conversation about anatomy is a good place to start. Many teens don’t know why or what is happening to their body during their first period. Helping to guide a conversation about the body can ease the worry and provide context as to what is happening in their body.
- Give a Period Preparedness Package: For many teens there can be a range of emotions with their first period, and we want to make sure they’re prepared. Try making your own preparedness package for periods. Here are some ideas of what to include in the Period Preparedness Package:
- Pads and/or Tampons
- Herbal Teas
- Energy bar
- Heating pad
- Extra pair of underwear
- A fun feel- good surprise self-care gift