Double Sunrise Young Women's Health: early teen to college years

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Discussing Menstruation

Research shows that girls today have many questions and concerns about menstruation and that they continue to consider their mothers as the most important source of information.

This may be a surprise to parents, as often girls react to "these discussions" with, "Oh Momů" or "I already know all that!"

It's important for parents to look behind what I call the "Super Girl" image. Although young women in advertisements are often displayed as carefree, active and totally "normal" during menstruation, researchers as Peggy Stubbs at The Wellesley Centers for Women have found that girls today do not take the adjustment to menarche lightly, or nonchalantly. After speaking with many girls, the researchers found that although girls are often unsure of how to approach their mothers, that they truly want and need support as well as open discussion of information regarding menstruation.

Mothers are in the best position to discuss menstruation with their daughters, but often feel awkward themselves, lack confidence regarding what to say, and feel unsure how to respond to the "Oh Momů" attitude.

Here are some points that have helped other mothers in discussing menstruation with their daughters.

Planning when to have "the talk"
It's best to start the discussion before a young woman starts menstruation, which is usually around age 12 years old, but some girls start as early as 9 years old. But a more important point is that experts agree that one talk ("the talk") is not enough and the discussion needs to be ongoing. to think of having "one talk" puts too much pressure on both of you, and is too limiting for grasping such an important issue. In general, talking about issues that affect a young woman's health needs to be ongoing, and this ongoing menstruation discussion can set that tone.

Where do I start?
The best place for a mother to start is by spending time getting ready. This time of preparation can include thinking about how you view menstruation, critically analyzing advertisements to see how the media portrays menstruation to girls today and reading about what girls want to know from their mothers.

We have some help for you, including:
"Keeping Connected Kit: Starting Menstruation" is a tool to guide your discussion, promote your daughter's problem solving skills and provide a kit for her to carry supplies when away from home that is unidentifiable and securely fastened.

"Keeping Connected Workbook: Early Teens and their Parents" has a section devoted to discussing menstruation with your daughter which includes the mechanics of menstruation as well as sensitive and enjoyable interactive exercises to discuss issues that girls especially want to know about.

Articles on this site regarding the mechanics of menstruation include:
What is Menstruation?
Menstruation and What if it Comes When I Don't Expect It?
Girls Reproductive Changes

Book: Body Talk: For Parents of Girls. This book by Peggy Stubbs is based on research at the Wellesley College Center for Research on Women. It suggests ways to facilitate conversations around menstruation. It includes approaches for all family members to take toward making menstruation easier for girls.

What do girls want from their mothers?
Girls see their mothers as the most important source of information about menstruation. Besides hearing about the mechanics of menstruation, girls want to know about products to use as well as the emotional aspects of menstruation. It is very important for parents to emphasize how menstruation is normal, to avoid making a "big deal" about it as well as not telling other adults about it.

What about involvement from other members of the family?
Girls hope that others in the family will support them by avoiding making a "big deal" of menstruation, and allowing the girls to approach other family members in a straight forward manner. For more information on this subject, read Fathers, Brothers and Menstruation.

Keeping connected in order to grow

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