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Two E’s of talking about first periods with adolescents: education and exposure

Tips on talking to kids about this touchy subject

How to talk to your child about menstruation

First menstruations can be intimidating for adolescents due to prevailing negative associations about them. However, Vilmante Markeviciene, an expert on intimate health, believes education and exposure to periods from an early age, as well as sharing experiences, can help them to get more comfortable with their bodies and menstrual cycles, reducing period-related stigma.

A study in the US revealed that 58% of adolescents believe they are negatively affected by the stigma surrounding periods. On top of that, the slow return to pre-pandemic social life might trigger additional anxiety for them. 

Therefore, Vilmante Markeviciene, founder of Genial Day—a woman-owned company focusing on health and conscious hygiene products—shared insights on helping adolescents deal with their changing bodies, at the same time scaling down at least one source of stress, and reducing the prevailing negative associations regarding periods.  

Understanding through sharing period experiences

As much as 74% of adolescents have questions about periods, but only 43% indicate that they can discuss them at school. Compared to Millenials, Gen Z is more comfortable talking about menstruation, but more than half of them still face some struggles opening up. 

As an expert who’s been in the industry for over 10 years, Markeviciene has noticed that adolescents are more accepting of their natural cycles, but there is still a long way to go.

“To my belief, when schools educate only menstruating students about their periods, it creates a mystery for those who don’t menstruate, therefore, they are less understanding. Both menstruating and non-menstruating students should know that periods are red, not blue as in commercials, that leaks are common and natural,” Markeviciene said. “The more information everyone has on periods, the less power the negative associations will have on adolescents.”

The founder of the company pointed out that there are groups or channels on social media specifically dedicated for teenagers to share their stories of first periods, and not feel alone in their journeys.

READ MORE: 4 conversations to have with your daughter before she reaches puberty

Education starts in the family

Given the negative associations about menstruation, many parents or custodians find it hard to talk about them with their children: 29% feel nervous discussing periods with their child while one in five parents does not feel prepared for dealing with their teenager’s first period.

The expert believes parents shouldn’t create additional discomfort regarding periods by avoiding the conversation or hiding that they too have periods. She recommended remembering two Es: expose and educate

“The first period can happen as early as eight years old, therefore parents should start talking about menstruation and fertility to all of their children at an early age. I recommend parents put together a first-period kit to feel more prepared when the time comes,” Markeviciene explained. “They can also purchase ready-made period kits, which are designed specifically for adolescents and have educational brochures.”

Comfort helps to minimize period-related stress

A study by Plan International UK revealed that about two million menstruating adolescents in the UK miss school on their periods, and 34% of them feel anxiety about experiencing leaks. Therefore, Markeviciene encouraged parents to do their best to help their teenagers feel the most comfortable during their periods, especially now, when the world is transitioning back to normal. 

“I suggest starting with sanitary pads or period panties—they are easy to use, the young adult can see how much they menstruate, and can go about their day safely. Period panties is another good option for preventing leaks and helping the adolescents to feel more secure,” Markeviciene said.

She advised against using tampons and menstrual cups at first as they require more knowledge about the human anatomy and can be intimidating to use. However, after some time, when teenagers get the hang of using tampons, they can start using the smallest size menstrual cups, which are a more eco-friendly alternative. 

Markeviciene also emphasized that talking openly to young adults and encouraging them to educate themselves on their natural body cycles might get both parents and their children one step closer to eradicating period-related stigma. 

Genial Day is a women-owned brand, which focuses on organic, hypoallergenic feminine hygiene products, using FAR-IR anion strip technology in the sanitary pads. The company was first introduced in Lithuania in 2009, where it became a top organic sanitary napkin brand in just four years, and later expanded to Europe, reaching the U.S. market in 2016. Currently, Genial Day is available in 15 countries worldwide. The product range includes sanitary pads, tampons, menstrual cups, and period panties.

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