Teaching Your Tween How to Use a Pad

Close up of sanitary napkins
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It's important for girls to understand the changes they can expect from puberty, including how to manage menstruation, before they begin puberty. Educating tween girls 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.

Here are answers to some common questions your tween daughter may ask.

What Is a Pad?

Your daughter is probably already familiar with pads either from you, her friends, TV commercials or health class. Just in case she isn't familiar, be sure to explain that pads are meant to help girls and women manage their periods and stay clean and dry while they are menstruating.

How Do You Use a Pad?

Most girls start out using pads because they are comfortable and easy to use. Show your daughter how to unwrap and pad and remove the sticky adhesive strip on the bottom of the pad, if necessary. This is also a good time to educate your daughter about proper feminine hygiene product disposal. When a pad is ready to be replaced, it should be thrown in the trash. Feminine hygiene products should never be flushed down the toilet.

Many girls 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. Nobody needs to know a girl is wearing a pad or is having her period unless she decides to tell them.

Why Are There so Many Choices in Pads?

Explain to your daughter that pads come in many sizes and thicknesses. Super absorbent and regular pads are meant for the days when her period is heaviest. Ultra-thin pads and pantyliners are meant for days when her period is light, or for when she thinks her 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 daughter might want to consider using pads that have peel-away backing on the bottom for the time being until she is used to managing her period.

When Do You Replace a Menstrual Pad?

Tween girls 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 4 and 6 hours, but if your daughter'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 daughter should be able to tell when a pad needs to be replaced, but if not, she should check every two to three hours. Pads that are saturated can leak if they aren't replaced right away.

What Do I With Used Pads?

Learning how to throw away pads is just as important as learning how to use them. Used pads should be folded in half. Show your daughter 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 in proper restroom receptacles. Once the pad is disposed of, your daughter should wash her hands thoroughly.

Where Do You Find Menstrual Pads?

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

It's also important that she understands that it is important for her to keep a pad or two either in her locker at school or in her backpack in case she gets her period unexpectedly. Also, inform her that pads can also be found in the school nurse's office.

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

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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