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Talking About Periods

Preparing a child for their period can be a challenging time for a lot of parents of children with disability.

Introduction

Helping your child to learn about their period can also help them to understand their body better and reduce the need for assistance with personal care.

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You may have concerns about:

  • how your child will react to their period
  • if your child will be able to understand what is happening to their body
  • if your child will be able to manage their period independently and hygienically
  • if your child’s sensory issues will make it difficult for them to use sanitary products

These are all normal and valid concerns that are shared by a lot of parents.

Encouragingly, research shows that people with intellectual disability and/or autism spectrum disorder are very often able to manage their period successfully both independently or with the support of others if they are:

  • supported to learn about their periods and their body
  • given lots of time to learn about periods before they start
  • provided with opportunities to practice using pads and other sanitary products
  • provided with supporting resources like social stories or visual schedules

 

It is important to allow your child as much time as possible to learn about periods. This can mean beginning to talk to your child about growing up and their changing body at an early age. A good way to begin talking to your child about these changes is to use photos of your child when they were younger. You can try:

  • Asking your child to compare how they looked when they were small to how they look now
  • Asking your child to identify how they have changed
  • Telling your child that their body will continue to change as they get older. This is a normal part of growing up

This activity can be a good way to introduce your child to some of the changes that will happen to their body during puberty. For information on these changes see body changes page.

This activity can be a good way to introduce your child to some of the changes that will happen to their body during puberty. For information on these changes see the body changes page.
Explain to your child that an important part of growing up is starting their period. Each child will need different levels of information depending on how much they already know. Some of the things that you can start with are:

  • A period is when blood comes out of your vagina. It happens once a month
  • The blood can come out for 3-7 days and nights
  • This is a normal part of growing up. It does not mean you are sick.
  • It means that you can get pregnant
  • You might need to wear something in your underpants to stop the blood getting on your clothes
  • If blood gets on your clothes or if your tummy hurts tell an adult you trust
  • It is good to talk to people you trust about your period

Over time you can slowly provide your child with more information about their period. This should include information about what a period is and the products that people use to manager their period. For information about sanitary products go to Period Product Options.

Other things to gradually teach your child are:

  • A period means that a woman’s body is ready to have babies.
  • A tiny egg comes out of the ovaries and travels to the uterus each month
  • During this time the lining inside the uterus thickens with blood
  • If a woman does not get pregnant that month, the egg and the lining of the uterus comes out as blood through the vagina
  • A period can last for 3-7 days
  • When period finishes, the cycle starts again
  • Once they start, people usually have their period once a month until they start menopause. Menopause usually happens around the age of 50

You, or other people in your life, may not have positive feelings about periods. This is OK. However, using positive language to talk to your child about their period can:

  • make them feel more comfortable with their body
  • remove any anxiety they might feel about starting their period
  • normalise periods as an important part of becoming an adult

You might even plan a celebration together for when your child starts their period. This can help them to think about periods in a positive way and not something to be scared of.

Conversation Starters

Do you see those brightly coloured packets on the shelf over there? They are called pads. And these are called tampons. Some people use them when they have their period. Have you seen them before?
Look at this photo from when you were little. You have changed so much. How have you changed?
Can you please help me put the shopping away? Please put these pads and tampons in the bathroom drawer. Do you know what they are for?

Strategies for you to try

Easy English

Use easy English resources like the ones listed below to find the right language and images to help you talk to your child about periods.

Teachable moments

Use teachable moments to start a conversation with your child. Examples of teachable moments could include:

  • walking down the aisle at the supermarket and pointing out the sanitary products
  • having your child’s older sibling talk about their period
  • your child opening the draw where the tampons and pads are kept

Demonstration

If you menstruate and you feel comfortable doing so, it can be good to show your child your period blood and how you manage it. Reassure them that you are not sick and that this is a normal part of being an adult. Explain that they will also have a period as they grow up.

painful periods

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Introduction to puberty for girls
Talking About Periods

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