Sexuality Educator Vanessa Hamilton shares how parents can support and empower their children when it comes to managing their period.
“ ...When will I know when I am going to get my period? And …. What if it happens at school?...”
These are two of the most common questions 9-12 year old girls ask me in puberty class. A new question, I was thrilled to hear recently from them was: “What better options are there for the environment instead of using tampons and pads?”
As a parent you play a vital role in preparing your child for their first period. You also have the potential to empower them on a journey of managing menstruation (periods) that is both beneficial for them personally as well as for the environment.
In my experience of talking to thousands of people every year in my work as a sexuality educator, all too often, unfortunately, I hear too many stories from students as well as adults (teachers & parents) about young people who didn’t feel prepared for when they experienced their first period.
By preparing a simple period starter kit (that is also environmentally friendly) and having plenty of positive conversations in the lead up to puberty, you can have a profound impact on the experience of your child and improve their wellbeing on their journey into adulthood.
I’d love to share with you one of my positive stories of puberty and period awareness/knowledge, that a teacher told me recently:
A girl stood up from her seat and one of the boys in class noticed some blood on the back of her dress. He quietly went over and told the teacher and then went to his bag to get a jumper for her. Between them, the boy and the teacher managed to let her know to sit back down again while the teacher got the kids outside to play a game and use the jumper for her to put around her waist while she went to the first aid room.
The teacher and I attribute this positive outcome to education. The teacher had been trained by me in Comprehensive Sexuality Education, while the caring student had been through many conversations with their parents about the changes young people will experience and how to be respectful of these.
How you can help make your child’s experience of menstruation a positive one
1. Create a period management kit
Watch the video below to get you started with some ideas. Perhaps choose a discreet bag such as the larger size JuJu storage bags or a pencil case and pack it with:
- A spare pair of underwear
- Disposable or reusable pads
- Hand wipes or sanitiser
- A small wet bag for used pads or underwear
- A cheerful treat, maybe a chocolate or a mint
- Some calming lavender oil spray or roll on
- Consider a little note of support to say that you are proud of them and although it takes a bit of getting used to, having a period is a sign of a healthy body doing one of the many amazing things it is designed to do.
2. Have ongoing positive conversations about changing bodies and human sexuality from a young age
Here are some statements you might like to adapt to your style of parenting conversations:
“When people with uteruses have periods, it is a sign that they are
healthy and developing as expected, it tells them they will potentially have
the opportunity to reproduce if they choose to.”
“We should celebrate the amazing things human bodies can do.”
Some of my best tips for parents to prepare for conversations around puberty and sexuality, especially if they are feeling nervous, fearful or inadequate include:
- Remove the layers of your own sexual journey in your mind. it is not relevant to the simple messages your child needs and it can be a barrier to you having essential conversations.
- Get educated. Many adults have never had anyone teach or talk to them, therefore they lack sexuality education: do some research to increase your confidence.
- Choose not to mourn or fear your daughter's sexual development. Think of her journey to adulthood as a positive one where she is informed and empowered.
- The approach we should have to menstruation is that periods are necessary for the survival of the species. This means we should send empowering, positive and encouraging messages to all genders that people who have periods are strong, healthy and capable of managing 450 - 500 cycles in a lifetime.
- Teach them about periods before it happens to them and to their friends. Provide a little period kit for school, and keep it positive!
Here are some other resources I recommend:
- A range of free tips and advice from Talking the Talk
- Enjoy this story of a parent explaining periods to a 6 year old
3. Educate yourself with what to expect for your child’s development
Some key facts to remember:
- The average age to begin puberty is 8 to 13 years old (most commonly 10 years old)
- The expected range of onset for menstrual periods is 9 to 16 years old and half have commenced menstruation by the age of 13
- The first noticeable changes to look out for are breast bud development and accelerated growth
- Pubic hair development often follows shortly after breast development
- Hair under the arms will commonly commence around 12 yoIt often takes 2-3 years for the menstrual cycle to become regular
4. Have an empowering impact on their future with environmental choices
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Sexuality Education - Talking the Talk
Vanessa Hamilton is a highly respected and sought after speaker, writer and educator, as well as an experienced mother of three children.
Vanessa created Talking The Talk Sex and Health Education and is dedicated to empowering the current generation of children with essential information for safe and positive relationship experiences over their lifetime.
Vanessa understands discussing topics related to sex and human sexuality with children can be confronting for parents. By sharing the many simple tips and strategies she has developed over the years, Vanessa aims to equip parents with the tools they need to have these essential conversations that support children as they grow up in this currently hyper- sexualised society.
Her tagline is: “Let’s get started - it's easier than you think”