Teaching Your Tween How to Use a Pad

Close up of sanitary napkins
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Tweens need to understand the changes they can expect from puberty, including managing menstruation, before they start their period. In addition, educating tweens about pads and tampons before they need them helps them adjust more comfortably to the changes of puberty and remain confident during what can be a difficult phase of growing up. Go over these common questions with your tween.

What Is a Pad?

Your child is probably already familiar with pads either from you, friends, TV commercials, or health class. However, just in case they aren't familiar, be sure to explain that pads are meant to help people manage their periods and stay clean and dry while they are menstruating.

How Do I Use One?

Most people start out using pads because they are comfortable and easy to use. Show your child how to unwrap the pad and remove the sticky adhesive strip on the bottom of the pad, if necessary. Some pads also have "wings" with additional adhesive strips.

Many tweens worry that people will notice that they are wearing a pad. Explain that pads (even super absorbent or long versions) are designed so they aren't visible through clothing. Therefore, nobody needs to know someone is wearing a pad or is having their period unless they decide to tell them.

Why Are There So Many Options?

Explain to your child that pads come in many sizes and thicknesses. Super absorbent and regular pads are meant for the days when their period is heaviest. Ultra-thin pads and pantyliners are meant for days when their period is light or for when they think their period might begin.

Some pads are designed with wings or wraparound liners that help prevent leaks. For an inexperienced tween, some of these products can be hard to use. Your child might want to consider using pads with peel-away backing on the bottom for the time being until they are used to managing their period.

When Do You Replace a Menstrual Pad?

Tweens may already be familiar with the risks of toxic shock from wearing tampons for too long. But they may not know how long a pad is supposed to "last." Extra-absorbent pads are made to last between four and six hours, but if your child's menstrual flow is very heavy, it may need to be replaced sooner. The same goes for pads that are thinner and less absorbent.

Your tween should be able to tell when a pad needs to be replaced, but if not, they should check every two to three hours. Pads that are saturated can leak if they aren't replaced right away.

What Do I Do With Used Pads?

Learning how to throw pads away is just as important as learning how to use them. Used pads should be folded in half. Show your child how to wrap a pad in toilet paper, a tissue, or the wrapper of the replacement pad.

Emphasize that pads and tampons should never be flushed down the toilet but placed in trash cans or proper restroom receptacles. Once the pad is disposed of, your child should wash their hands thoroughly.

Where Can I Find Menstrual Pads?

Be sure your tween knows where they can find pads at home should they get their period when you're not there. You might consider placing a package in their room, where they keep their underwear or underneath the sink in the bathroom.

They may also want to keep a pad or two either in their locker at school or in their backpack in case they get their period unexpectedly. Also, inform them that pads can be found in the school nurse's office.

Explain to your child that pads can be purchased from drugstores, grocery stores, and big-box retailers like Target. You may think it's silly, but some tweens think they need a prescription to purchase pads, so be sure your child understands that anybody can purchase them, and they don't need a prescription.

1 Source
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  1. Vostral S. Toxic shock syndrome, tampons and laboratory standard-settingCMAJ. 2017;189(20):E726–E728. doi:10.1503/cmaj.161479

By Jennifer O'Donnell
Jennifer O'Donnell holds a BA in English and has training in specific areas regarding tweens, covering parenting for over 8 years.