Is it possible to teach teens how to chart their menstrual cycles? As a teacher of the Teen FEMM program, I’ve learned that not only is it possible, it’s way easier than people think.
I teach Fertility Awareness-Based Methods to young girls in the transition of puberty. Sometimes girls are working out hormonal transitions during puberty, other times they are simply learning about their bodies. I love teaching Teen FEMM because I never had it as a pre-teen and would have been so grateful for it.
As an instructor, I notice that teens have completely different needs than couples learning Natural Family Planning in preparation for marriage, or even just grown adults interested in charting their cycles. Young teen girls are not only in a hormonal passage, a massive time of physical growth and change, but they also have emotional concerns starkly different to those of adults. These emotions make learning to chart their cycles with FABM all the more crucial. It’s an honor when I get to be a part of young teens’ journeys in this educational process.
Teens get a bad rap when it comes to Sex Ed. I find they are often eager to learn despite the occasional uncomfortable shift in their seat. There are 3 myths I constantly come up against, and I’m ready to bust them one at a time.
Teens can’t chart; it’s too hard.
While it’s true a 13-year-old girl may find using a hormonal test (like Clearblue) or taking her temperature every day cumbersome, there are methods that teen girls can easily master. I find cervical fluid observations are totally doable for teens—and often we can gather enough info from cervical fluid charting alone to figure out hormonal patterns throughout their cycles.
Teens have usually already noticed cervical fluid anyways. And with the help of apps, charting can be simple and straightforward. The TeenFEMM model is color-coded and clear cut. I have never had a teen girl tell me that she can’t chart because it’s too hard. Knowing that week before their period can be a tumultuous one is worth its weight in gold. Parents, too, love that they can be clued in on this hormonal ride.
Teens don’t want to learn about ovulation, it’s too awkward.
Awkward? Maybe, occasionally—but only in co-ed rooms. When I’m teaching a group of two or three teen girls, or one-on-one, I find they can be more mature than even adult couples. They are curious, excited, and open-minded. They’ve owned this uterus since they themselves were in a uterus. They want to know how it works and what the heck is going on with their emotions. This is a crucial step in creating a positive relationship with their bodies.
In my conversations with teen girls, I even offer insight on breast health. This might be the first time they hear about breasts not in the context of size and desirability. In my experience, when teens are in a comfortable setting and don’t feel judged, they are more curious than awkward about reproductive health.
Teens only want hormonal contraception.
Teens generally want the Pill if they’ve seen commercials, print ads, and subliminal promotions from the media they consume, in their doctor’s office, or among their peers. I remember being so envious of my eighth-grade girlfriend when she would pull out her pill pack. It seemed so…adult. Teens don’t often even know what the Pill does, just that it seems like an important passageway into womanhood.
When I ask teens about Long Acting Reversible Contraceptives (LARCs) such as the IUD, they are generally wary and uneasy. (“It goes where?!”) I’ve found that when teens understand what hormonal contraception is, how it operates, and what their alternatives are, they are much more likely to choose a Fertility Awareness-Based Method (FABM) where they can work with, not against, their body’s natural processes.
If using a FABM is framed in the same context (a passageway through puberty), young women can get excited about downloading that app or getting a special charting journal. If they’ve seen other role models in their life using a FABM (every SymptoThermal-using mom can attest that their kiddo has played with their thermometer at least once) they will see it as something they look forward to doing, too.
There is a lot of push for young teens to get on the Pill, but we know this could have long-lasting negative effects on their health. By teaching a Fertility Awareness-Based Method young, you not only empower them with information, but give them an opportunity to let their hormones (and menstrual cycles) mature uninhibited. If they do experience strong cramps, heavy bleeding, and irregular cycles, a FABM chart will give them the blueprint to what is going on in their hormonal maturation.
At the end of the day, teens are eager to learn more about ovulation, hormonal health, and menstrual cycles—yes, even about cervical fluid! They are willing and able to chart. There’s a huge demand for young women and men to be educated and empowered with information. I’m grateful to be a part of it but even more excited to see what these young people will grow up to be.
Resources for teen fertility awareness education
The Couple to Couple League realizes that mothers are in a special position to engage their daughters about the gift of their fertility. Their Mother / Daughter program lets you choose the resources you feel would be the best to communicate with your daughter about fertility awareness.
Teen STAR is a developmental curriculum founded by Hanna Klaus, MD (Sr. Miriam Paul , MMS) that helps adolescents and young adults to come to terms with their emerging sexuality and fertility and assist them in making responsible decisions.
The Cycle Show is an educational, interactive, multi-media, fertility awareness workshop for young girls.
The FEMM App helps girls understand their reproductive health in all its physical and emotional complexity.