Going back to school can trigger a lot of anxieties in teens and tweens: worries about social dynamics, finding classrooms, and how demanding teachers will be. If your kid is a daughter, she may also be worried about something more intimate: the horrible possibility that she might get her period at school and not know what to do. “What if I need help? What if it leaks and people can see?”
There’s no way to eliminate preteen angst about changing bodies. But some strategic conversations can make period-at-school anxiety shrink to manageable proportions. Here’s how:
Make sure she knows how to use the equipment. If your daughter hasn’t had her first period, she may be wondering about the technical aspects of using a pad. Obviously pads are very simple to use, so that’s easy to address by opening a pad and having her practice affixing it to her panties.
Teach her how to operate the pad dispensers they have in public ladies’ room. Make sure she has the quarters or whatever she’d need tucked away somewhere in her backpack.
If she’s had her period for a while and feels ready to try tampons, walk her through the process. Open one and explain how to insert it. Be sure to start with a small tampon with a round tip. She may want to use some lube to make insertion easier. Tampons shouldn’t hurt; once one is in place, she shouldn’t be able to feel it at all.
The most important thing to explain is that the more relaxed she is, the easier insertion will be. So choose a calm time to try. Coach outside the door if she likes, or just stay out of her way if that’s what she wants.
Strategize about which adults at school can help. Every adult at her school knows about periods and knows girls can be embarrassed about them. They will help her, and they’ll be nice about it! Point out that even male teachers have wives or sisters; they know plenty about periods. This is all new for your daughter, but it’s old hat for the grown-ups.
That said, she can think about which adults she’d feel most comfortable approaching if necessary. The school nurse is an obvious choice. She might also turn to the health teacher or her favorite teacher in any subject. Simply being able to visualize a plan about whom to approach can be reassuring.
Pack emergency supplies. Store a pad and change of panties discreetly in the bottom of her backpack or in her locker.
Suggest ways to be proactive. If she’s really worried about leakage, she can wear a pantiliner every day. That won’t catch a heavy flow, but it’ll buy her a little more time to get a pad in. Suggest that she go to the bathroom more often when she thinks her period might be coming, so she’ll notice sooner when it’s started.
Reassure her that it gets easier. When menstruating is new, it feels like a big deal. But it won’t take her very long to get the hang of it. She’ll learn what it feels like when her period is imminent and how heavy her flow is on which days of her cycle. Nothing will make having a period fun, but before long it’ll become something she deals with, not something she has to worry about.