Parent/Guardian Guide to Educating Your Children About Menstruation
Periods are just another normal part of life. Your child may experience this normal part of growing up at some point in life, so shouldn’t you be prepared, and shouldn’t you prepare them? This article will offer tips and guidance to better understand the menstrual cycle and what steps you should take as well as what knowledge you should have about them. Talking about such a personal matter can deter many parents but helping your child through this should be your first priority and sometimes we need to step out of our comfort zones for the benefit of our children.
What Is The Menstrual Cycle?
A menstrual cycle, also referred to as a period, is the monthly bleeding that women and other people experience, and is perfectly normal and healthy. When menstruation takes place, it is the body’s way of discarding the monthly buildup of the lining of the uterus (womb). Tissue and menstrual blood are disposed of from the uterus through a small opening in the cervix and pass out of the body through the vagina. During this time, the uterine lining is preparing for pregnancy and if you are not pregnant, estrogen and progesterone hormone levels begin falling; very low levels of these hormones cause menstruation. Estrogen and progesterone are the two most important hormones of the female body. These hormones can change throughout the menstrual cycle and cause symptoms like cramps, diarrhea, gas, and other things.
What is PMS (Premenstrual Symptoms)?
PMS (premenstrual syndrome) is when a person has emotional and physical symptoms that happen before or during their period. These symptoms may include but are not limited to mood swings, sadness, anxiety, bloating, cramps, and acne. They usually subside a few days into the period but if they continue longer than that it is completely normal.
When Do Kids Usually First Get Their Period?
Between the ages of 10–15 years old, sometimes younger.
When Do Periods Happen Regularly and How Long Do They Last?
Usually around five days but it depends on the individual. Over time, that individual will be able to tell how long they menstruate as well as what part of the month they menstruate. Periods can happen at least once a month but some people do not experience periods as frequently as others. And on average, the female body has a period for around 40 years. Most women and other people have regular periods until perimenopause, the time when your body begins the change to menopause. Perimenopause, or transition to menopause, may take a few years. During this time, your period may not come regularly. Menopause happens when you have not had a period for 12 months in a row. For most people, this happens between the ages of 45 and 55. The average age of menopause in the United States is 52.
Can Someone Get Pregnant As Soon As Their Period Starts?
Yes. Menstruation is the beginning of the body’s preparation for pregnancy. It is possible to get pregnant while on your period but it is more likely to occur in the latter days of your period.
What Your Child Should Expect In Terms Of Bleeding Amounts During Menstruation
Periods can be lighter or heavier, but during menstruation a person with a period usually loses around 1–3 tablespoons of blood. Similar to how periods can change in amount of bleeding month-to-month, it can also be different person-to-person.
When Should You Talk To Your Child About Periods?
Whenever questions come up, or you could just talk about it whenever you feel like it. It is best to prepare them for their first period, and if they know already about this change, they are less likely to freak out about it. Furthermore, it could be extra cautious to have your child carry around sanitary products not only for themselves in the future but for others who may have their period unexpectedly.
Should I Tell All My Kids About Periods, Despite Their Gender and Sex?
Yes, absolutely. To deflate the stigma attached to periods, it is best to help shape a child’s mind at a young age so they can better understand things. Bring back the idea that your child should carry around sanitary care products despite what they identify as. Lending a helping hand to someone in need is always more important than what others may think. You are not responsible for what others have to say about your child or your parenting methods, you have a say in what you do and do not do.
Do not freak out, this is not a big deal and shouldn’t cause a big ruckus, this is a part of life.
Telling your child words of encouragement, such as “this is a sign of change, and change can be good. It allows us to grow as a person. This does not stop you from doing the things you want in life, this should not hinder you in any way,” or something along those lines is what makes this transition easier. Reacting in disgust is not a way of easing this information to your child; having a relaxed mindset and demeanor does more good than harm.
What If I Am Uncomfortable Talking About This With My Kids?
You can always find other means of explaining things, such as purchasing books on puberty and bookmarking/highlighting areas of the book that you want them to focus on before really digging into other things. Here are a few links to books that will help and they are available on Amazon. Articles online are also available such as this website filled with viable information, All About Periods, and the women's health site. Furthermore, even if you are completely open about these things with your kids, you can still have them read these books to have a better understanding. Kids should learn about the human body in its entirety, no matter their gender or sex. It’s better to be knowledgeable about something than to be completely left in the dark and confused. Even if you are an adult or a young adult you can still learn from these books!
Books about puberty, for everyone despite their gender or sex:
- Celebrate Your Body (and Its Changes, Too!): The Ultimate Puberty Book for Girls
- Celebrate Your Body 2: The Ultimate Puberty Book for Preteen and Teen Girls
- Growing Up Great!: The Ultimate Puberty Book for Boys
- The Care, and Keeping of You: The Body Book for Younger Girls
- Revised Edition (American Girl Library)
- Sex, Puberty, and All That Stuff: A Guide to Growing Up
- It's Perfectly Normal: Changing Bodies, Growing Up, Sex, and Sexual Health (The Family Library).
Sanitary Care Products And Potential Risks Of Using Certain Care Products
There are many different sanitary care products for your child to use but the easiest bet is to begin with tampons, considering that they are the easiest to wear and use. But, you can also introduce other products to your children such as tampons, menstrual cups, cervical caps, sponges, diaphragms period panties, and menstrual disks. That is completely up to your child and you should help them to do their research on these different products and ask them if they’d like to try a certain product.
There are many different brands of sanitary care products that are available in different parts of the world, but we will be mainly focusing on products available in the US. These products can be found in almost any store in the feminine care aisle but can also be found online on various websites including Amazon. The products that most Americans choose to use, from most common to least common, are Always, Kotex, StayFree, Store Brand, Carefree, Maxithins, and other brands. Different brands work for different people and it is best to use trial and error for this and to encourage your child to speak up about their needs and whether or not a certain brand works for them.
Tell them it is not their fault that certain products may not work for them. Dealing with a menstrual cycle is a learning process and mistakes should not lead to discouragement. Pads are the most commonly used sanitary care product but that does not mean that someone is limited to using just pads, your child should be able to experiment with other things if they ask. Please be aware that there are different types and sizes of these different products meant for light blood flow, medium blood flow, and heavy blood flow. In the beginning, medium blood flow products should be a good start for your child and will allow for further adjustments.
What Is Toxic Shock Syndrome?
Toxic Shock Syndrome (TSS) is a rare yet deadly condition that can occur when someone uses an internal sanitary care product for too long without changing or cleaning it. An internal sanitary care product could be a tampon, menstrual cup, cervical cap, sponges, and/or diaphragms. Sanitary care products will have recommended use on their packaging and should never be ignored. It should also be encouraged that your child can change their care product before the recommended time but never after. If you or your child experience TSS symptoms you should remove whatever product you are using, replacing it with a safer option such as a pad, and go to the hospital immediately.
Some symptoms of TSS include:
- Sudden high fever
- Muscle Aches
- Kidney or other organ failures
Videos On How To Properly Use Certain Sanitary Products
- How To Put On A Pad + Demo And Disposal
- How To Put In A Tampon Step By Step
- How To Insert A Menstrual Cup + Removal
- How Do You Use A Menstrual Disc? | Flex Disc Insertion + Removal Guide
Cramps and Remedies
Cramps are a normal part of the menstrual cycle as well as PMS and can be treated pretty easily. A quick solution is to have your child take the recommended dosage of a pain reliever. Period cramps are caused by the muscles contracting thanks to the prostaglandin chemical. Exercise can also help with cramps as well as masturbation. Another remedy is to get a warm water bottle or compress to put onto the stomach; a warm bath can also ease cramps. Hot water is known to help stimulate blood flow and the pressure from the hot water can temporarily prevent the blood from flowing out of the vagina. Here are more remedies that can ease period cramps.
When Should I Speak To A Doctor About My Child’s Period?
Most people don't have any problems with their periods. But call your doctor if your child:
- Is 15 and does not have their period
- Started developing breasts more than 3 years ago and does not have their period
- Is more than 2 years from their first period and their periods still does not come every 3–6 weeks (especially if they miss three or more periods in a row)
- Has severe cramps, not relieved by ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin, or store brand) or naproxen (Aleve, Midol, or store brand)
- Has very heavy bleeding (bleeding that goes through a pad or tampon faster than every 2 hours)
- Has severe PMS that gets in the way of their everyday activities