from mothers that have already been through it.
My daughter has not yet becomes a young
lady, but,the thought of her starting to menstruate does send a bit of
a shiver down
my spine. How should I handle it? When should I begin talking about it?
How will my daughter handle it? What new surprises may I now have to
deal with? It’s tough on any young lady, let alone one with other
challenges. So, I set out to ask other mothers that have already been
through it with their daughters to share their experiences and provide
any tips that would help guide me and ease my fears. Just being able to
hear/read how another parent handled it put some of my fears to rest.I
feel that I, at least, have a game plan. Below are a set of
with answers, that were asked of mothers who children have
different disabilities. Because of the sensitivity of this article,
names have been changed to protect the privacy of all.
PSN: When did
you start talking about menstruation with your special needs daughter?
What did you say? How did you explain it?
started speaking about menstruation with my daughter beginning about
the age of 9 or 10. Not entirely sure how to go about bringing up the
topic. The library has many books on the topic of both menstruation AND
“how babies are made”. Make sure that the books are age appropriate in
her ability to grasp and comprehend. Along with those books, I also dug
out a book that MY own mother read to me as a young girl who was about
to go into the stages of body changes. It is entitled "What's
Happening, to My Body Book for Girls". I went over all the
topics I felt she would need to know about and understand, making sure
to answer any questions she may have had along the way. Talk
about the different products available and show how they are to be
used. Pads are a little more easy to understand and apply. When
explaining things to her, repetition always worked best. Basically, it
is like explaining something to an extremely young child. Even now, she
still has moments like that, although she is getting better about it.
I started talking to Shannon about her menstrual cycle when she was
around ten or eleven years old. This was also about the same time she
was developing her breast buds. I explained to her that getting a
period was a big thing and it was also the start of becoming
a woman. I explained that the bleeding part was okay, it was part of
the menstrual cycle and not to be afraid. I explained the menstrual
cycle only lasted three to five days. I told her I would be there to
help her along the way. PSN: How do you deal with this monthly
When Shannon finally got her “friend”, as we called it, she was about
twelve. We celebrated by going out for ice cream. I told her my little
girl was growing up, that she was now a young woman! I helped
with changing her pads for about a year and she figured out by
then how to do it. Once in a while we would have an accident. I feel
dealing with a special needs child or any child
should have a daily routine. It is important especially during this
time of the month. A schedule to change her pads, for example,in
the morning, before lunch at school, when she arrives home
from school, before dinner and after she took her bath before bed. Also
encourage bathroom use more often during this time of month,
it may help prevent any accidents or catch one before it
becomes too bad. Those new moist, flushable wipes also help with wiping
and keeping the area clean. PSN: How do you handle it with the schools or other caregivers? Mother
1: I make sure to stay in a solid
connection with EVERYONE involved in my daughter's care. Whether in
school (with her counselors, psychologists), home (family members and
friends), or other extended help (counselors, case workers,
psychologists). When we are all on the same page at every turn, and we
let Kristi know as much, we feel the days go smoother and the
communication is much stronger. The time of the month isn't usually a
disruption to my daughters daily education (unless she forgets to pack
pads, or starts while at school and isn't prepared).
On days she was in school I would
call the teacher first, before Shannon arrived at school. I
have never had any problems getting the teachers to help out. Ask them
to please be discrete (I felt this was a private matter and that
Shannon was a little embarrassed). I was lucky that all of
her teachers had been females. PSN: Do you have
suggestions for products/tips that may be helpful. Are there things
that have worked for you and your child? Mother
The only tip I can offer is to use
books/charts as a teaching aid if you are unable to find the words to
explain the changes going on with your daughter. It worked for me.
Also, showing them the different products available and working with
them to see what may be more comfortably fitted to them for regular use. Oh,
and good regular hygiene. I can't
tell you how often I explain this to my daughter. Periods and other
changes bring all sorts of unpleasant odors to the body. Proper
cleaning methods need to be explained and taught on a VERY continual
basis. As I've mentioned before: I must go over it all the time with my
daughter so that it will eventually click enough for her to remember
and understand not just that she HAS to do it but also WHY she has to.
I only hope that it will one day become more of a habit and less of
something she has to mentally think about.
Are mood swings a problem/issue any advise? Mother
swings are a bit tough to analyze when it comes to my daughter. She
started having mood swings when the mild anxieties started. Then add to
the mix typical teenage hormones..........and finally premenstrual
hormones. There isn't a day that goes by that she isn't moody
about something. Though I have learned to differentiate the moods and
when they surface most. Her attitude and "mouthiness" surface
regularly. She is most emotional (weepy, happy) during her periods. Advice?
I don't feel that I can offer
anything more than what most of the parents have tried or adopted as
their own personal method. Some moods you just have to allow, as long
as it isn't disrespecting towards themselves or others around them. At
times, my daughter needs her space, just like most people do. Other
times, she forgets herself and vents at the wrong times (forgetting to
put the brakes on her tongue as it were). Those are times when I make
the decision to either walk away to calm down or to correct her then
and there with a firm explanation of my disappointment in her.
this time, she would go to her room and I would go to a room in the
house for us to both cool down. Regarding her sad moods:after
I ask if she's ok, I give her space and time in her room. She usually
comes out later in a better mood and more willing to talk about it.
At the time, because I was in the moment and I took care of
Shannon myself, I did not really notice the mood swings. As
years went by, I did notice she seemed to be more aggressive during her
menstrual cycle. PSN: Did you consult with a Doctor for help? If so, was it a
Pediatrician, Gynecologists, General Practitioner or other? What did
they suggest/advise? Mother 1:
No, No Dr.'s were consulted. She had started her periods before her
"regular" counseling sessions and case workers were assigned. She
hasn't been to a Gynecologist as of yet. I may need some advice on that
one, as I believe it may be a bit of an ordeal for her. She is very
body conscious and would be extremely anxious in the Dr.'s office.
consulted with my gynecologist.
If Shannon had not been regular, the doctor had suggested putting her
on the pill, not for birth control reasons, but to have that regularity
in her cycle. Shannon and I did not talk about sex until she
was fifteen or sixteen. My child has Cerebral Palsy, so mentally she is
delayed about four to five years.Later
when Shannon was older, I did speak with a couple of different
gynecologists about the birth control pill for the protection.
The doctors I spoke with wanted to do the regular GYN exam and
had not had the experience of dealing with a disabled young adult. At
the time I did not see how my daughter would mentally be able
to handle it.
Did you put your child on a form of birth control for safety reasons,
as well as for regulating their periods? Mother
I have not. Her periods (unlike mine at her age) don't seem to be
anything that's so bad that a Midol can't take care of. She reacts well
to the Midol. It works, and she usually feels better shortly
thereafter. I'd rather not bring birth control into the equation until
I see signs and/or the need to.
Shannon has always been in a sheltered
environment so at the time I did not feel it was necessary. If I had to
do it all over, I would have put her on the birth control to
help her with the mood swings.
PSN: Are there any tips you would like to share with our
Forgetting what it was like when we were teens, going through that
phase can be real easy at times. Often, I look at my daughter and try
to remember how strange, weird, and uncomfortable I felt at those
stages. I then have to stop and remind myself that not only is my
daughter going through the changes of most young ladies, but that she's
doing it with everything else that she has going on inside her
emotionally and mentally. It's hard enough for them to always fully
grasp why they are the way they are in everyday life, we have to be
patient, understanding and loving as they also try to come to grips
with this emotional roller-coaster called "going through the changes of
becoming a young woman". Be there for them and be supportive. When all
is said and done, it will be our reactions and strengths as parents
that will help them to solidify their roles into the adult world.
PSN: Are there any books/resources that you have found to be
“What's Happening To My Body Book For Girls" It worked for me as a
teen. It worked in explaining things to my own
teen daughter (even with the extra time needed to go over topics
repeatedly). Other resources that I have found helpful are including
her in programs
that will match her up with other girls close to her age of similar
personalities and needs that she will feel she has enough in common
with to talk and bond with. That program, I have found, has been The
Sun-Up Program of Indian River County. Positive groups like that have
brought only positive changes and additional support strength to me and
About the Author: Chantai Snellgrove
Upon graduating college, I
started my career as a Production Director for the World's largest magazine
publisher, Hachette Filipacchi Media (Elle, Car and Driver, Road and Track, etc…). After 10 y...