How to go about explaining periods can be a challenge, but it's absolutely necessary! Most teachers expect that families will be able to explain reproductive health topics to their children, but these teachers also know that each student has different circumstances. There are families who talk more openly, while for others the mere mention of private parts can bring about punishment.
Providing an explanation about the first period is important because we currently still have lots of girls affected by menstrual poverty, and this does not just mean a shortage of sanitary products, but also a lack of information and support for worry-free periods.
A teacher has the power to change students' lives, and as we know that talking about periods is not easy, we're here to give you a hand:
Here you will find 5 tips on how to explain periods to students.
Don't be afraid of embarrassment
Start talking about periods! Will it be weird? Yes, probably, but the good news is that you are an adult, while they are teenagers. You already have the emotional tools to deal with embarrassing situations. Take time out of class - science is great - and give an obvious explanation, because many students don't know the basics. Respond to giggles and jokes with both humor and firmness, and make a commitment to talk about periods and reproductive health each month, even if for just 15 minutes of the class. Students don't show it, but they need someone they can trust to talk about it - even if they don't have the courage to talk about it out-loud in class in front of everyone.
Explain how menstruation works
Talk about the menstrual cycle and how it happens. Explain what is normal and what girls can expect to feel and experience. This will help them relate to each other and not feel different, and it also creates empathy among the boys. Reproductive health is a matter for all society and not just for those who menstruate. It is important not to use slang terms for sexual organs, to use terms such as "vulva", "ovary", "menstruation", and to avoid using comical terms. Be clear that it is normal to have questions about periods, and not knowing how things work is just fine - we're all learning! And also that it is normal to be embarrassed about talking about it. Though talking about it is essential, and always with people that the students trust.
Provide some content
Give tips such as YouTube channels, videos, books, materials and even our content! Whenever you discover some new content or an influencer who talks about reproductive health, tell your students about it - often they already know about it and this can be a moment to talk more in depth about some topics from a young people's perspective.
Give hygiene tips
Once again, it may be embarrassing, but you are an adult and it's essential that you make a difference to the health of your female students, in particular. Talk about how often to change their menstrual pads and how blood is neither dirty nor foul-smelling, and say that your school is available in case they have questions, period pains or problems. Try to organize some form of initiative with the school nursing team, if you have one, so that there are menstrual pads available and a teacher (preferably a woman) that the girls can seek out if they feel the need.
Don't take the boys out of the room.
It is sad to think that in our society men still think that they are not part of reproduction - and that they don't need to know anything about women's menstrual cycle. It is important that the boys are involved in the conversation for various reasons. First because very often the families don't find it necessary to explain to them how the menstrual cycle works and provide information about periods. Secondly because very often they can be afraid of or disgusted by the blood simply due to stereotypes and lack of knowledge. And thirdly, to encourage them to have empathy for girls and the female world as a whole, making them better men in the future. Make a point of giving girls more of a voice and ensure they are protected - the boys have no right to make fun of the girls' problems, for example. So, make sure the girls feel safe without leaving them out. Boys also have a role in the menstruation conversation!
Kimberly-Clark makes no warranties or representations regarding the completeness or accuracy of the information. This information should be used only as a guide and should not be relied upon as a substitute for professional medical or other health professional advice.