Time to Have the Tampon Talk With Your Daughter? 5 Tips for Teaching Her How to Use One

Some help for this slightly uncomfortable conversation
Woman's hands holding clean cotton tampon

Parenthood is full of moments that push you outside of your comfort zone — and that doesn’t stop when your kids hit double digits. Except now, instead of changing diapers and handling tantrums, you’re fielding questions like, “How do I use a tampon?”

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You might feel as awkward answering this question as your daughter feels asking it. But take a deep breath: This is actually an opportunity to bond and build trust with your daughter, and give her guidance that can help her feel more at ease with the changes happening to her body.

Remember, this is all new

When a girl is just getting used to having a period, the idea of putting a tampon inside her body can be scary. So there’s no hard and fast rule about the “right” time to teach your tween or teen how to put in a tampon correctly for the first time, or who is the best person to do it.

That all will depend on your household dynamics, as well as your child’s level of motivation to use tampons, says Ellen Rome, MD, Head of Adolescent Medicine at Cleveland Clinic Children’s Hospital.

“Tampons can be used from the first period on, or they may never be used,” she explains.

A girl who’s on the swim team and can’t participate in practice by wearing a pad, for example, will probably take more initiative than a girl who’s grown up in a household where no one uses tampons.

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So don’t rush it or force it. But if your daughter says she’s ready to give it a try, you can help coach her through it with these tips.

1. Use a visual

A pre-teen or teenager using a tampon for the first time probably isn’t intimately familiar with that part of her body, and that’s often the biggest hurdle. Find a diagram online that can help her understand where the tampon is supposed to fit and that it needs to go in at an angle almost parallel to her thigh.

You can also take a tampon out of the packaging and show her how to hold it with her thumb and middle finger, and how to release the tampon from the applicator with her pointer finger.

2. Stock up on the right supplies

Slender tampons will probably be easiest for a first-timer to use. Dr. Rome suggests also purchasing some KY jelly that she can put on the tip of the tampon while she’s learning, to help the tampon easily slide past the muscle at the outside of the vagina. Some girls might also find it helpful to use a small hand-held mirror to see what they’re doing.

3. Put her at ease

Encourage your daughter to stand or sit in a comfortable position where she feels relaxed — whether that’s sitting on the toilet, standing with a leg up on the bathtub or lying down.

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Let her know that putting in and taking out a tampon can feel a little funny or uncomfortable at first, and that she might not get it right away. But reassure her that the more she does it, the easier it gets.

“Very rarely, there can be some anatomical obstacles,” Dr. Rome notes. “If it isn’t easy to put in, or if it hurts, it’s a good idea to touch base with your pediatrician.”

4. Cover the logistics

Remember that this is all new to her, so make sure to go over the basics, including:

  • The tampon won’t get lost or stuck inside of her.
  • If it’s in correctly, she shouldn’t be able to feel it.
  • The tampon wrapper and applicator go in the trash (not flushed down the toilet).
  • A used tampon also goes in the trash.

5. Make her TSS-aware

Make sure your daughter knows that toxic shock syndrome is a thing, and that she shouldn’t leave a tampon in longer than six hours without changing it. “If it’s been six hours and she can’t get it out, that’s a trip to the doctor’s office or emergency room,” Dr. Rome says.

Remember that you, too, are not alone in this. If this conversations feels too far outside of your comfort zone, schedule an appointment for your daughter to meet with an adolescent medicine specialist.

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