Social media, the hypersexualization of women, and confusing messages often make preteens and adolescents develop a strange relationship with their bodies and a distorted sense of reality. “And what is desirable is that they should have a healthy and natural connection with their body,” says Miriam Al Adib Mendiri, a gynecologist, obstetrician, mother of four and author from Spain. Sex education is a fundamental issue in the development of teenagers, says Al Adib Mendiri, adding that part of it involves teaching them about the different options for menstrual products available to them: “The tampon and the menstrual cup are two popular methods that can provide comfort and freedom during the days that girls are menstruating.” But according to this doctor who has been disseminating information on women’s health on her social accounts for more than a decade — she has 122,000 followers on Instagram — some girls may feel afraid or nervous about it. “Having grown up in a loving environment, not a repressive one loaded with myths and taboos about everything related to sexuality, helps a lot when it comes to not being afraid of using these products,” she notes.
But not everything depends on information received at home. It should also be taken into account that throughout the day a lot of information is received through other channels, especially the internet, and some types of information do not help develop the right connection with one’s own body. “Let’s keep in mind that on the internet, vulvas are represented in an unrealistic way: they are vulvas that look like dolls: no hair, tiny pink labia,” notes Al Adib Mendiri, adding that menstruation is typically represented as something that must be concealed and unnoticed by others, following “that ideal model of a linear and hypersexualized woman who, when she has her period, remains exactly the same just by putting on a cool pad that seems to make her want to dance and do a handstand in the sexiest clothes she has.”
For this expert, this is the breeding ground to encourage disgust and shame in one’s own menstrual cycles and genitals. “How gross my hair is, how gross menstruation, how gross my inner folds which are so big, how unpleasant the discharge...” are just some thought patterns that may emerge. “Thus, girls disconnect from their own bodies, so it is good to talk to them about these issues so that they will gradually acquire a more realistic vision of the human body and not have distortions. If the brain has trouble accepting a certain part of the body, it will be difficult for you to explore it without being tense and it will be difficult for you to insert a tampon,” says Al Adib Mendiri.
In her experience, these five tips can help parents help their daughters use tampons and menstrual cups.
- It’s important to establish open and honest communication with your daughter about her body and her period from an early age. Talking about the body and the period in a natural way and without taboos will help to normalize these issues and build confidence. It is necessary to explain in detail how the menstrual cycle works and how the different menstrual hygiene products are used, including the tampon and the menstrual cup. It is also advisable to talk about the myths and taboos around sexuality, the unrealistic way in which the body is represented on television or on the internet, taking advantage of each conversation to stimulate their critical spirit.
- Use resources for accurate information. Offer brochures, educational videos or even search for online resources that explain how to use these products. This will help dispel misconceptions that may be causing fear.
- As your adolescent daughter gains autonomy and seeks answers to her questions, she must be encouraged to investigate the subject for herself. For example, encouraging her to read recommended books on sexuality that include menstruation and the hormonal cycle, so that she learns to differentiate what is normal and what is not in the hormonal cycle, menstruation and sexuality in general. In addition, allowing her to actively participate in the search for information will build her self-confidence.
- If your daughter decides to use a tampon or menstrual cup, it is essential to teach her the proper insertion and removal techniques, step by step, and answer all her questions. Demonstration products, such as tampons or empty menstrual cups, may be offered to you to practice and familiarize yourself with the process before your first use.
- It is normal for teenage girls to feel some anxiety or insecurity when using a new menstrual product. Accompany your daughter during the process and give her emotional support. Let them know that you are there to answer any questions or resolve any concerns that may arise. Reassure her and encourage her to be patient, as it can take time to get used to these new methods.
Al Adib Mendiri adds that by promoting a positive attitude towards sexual education and taking care of your own health, “you will be helping your daughter make informed decisions and feel more secure and comfortable during her menstrual period.” Each girl is different and may require different levels of support: “So it is important to adapt to their needs and respect their choice.”
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