Dear Savvy Auntie,

I was saddened one day when we went to a water park. One of my nieces went with us every time because she so loves it. Unfortunately, that day she had her period. It was only her second. She had no idea how it all "worked." She was clueless as to the facts about menstruation. I was thankful to be there to help her and to give her some information so she wasn't so traumatized.

She is the youngest of four girls in her family. It is so sad to know that she is not being properly guided by her mother (my husband's sister). That means that she is learning everything from her friends which also means that she's not really getting the facts.

I am especially concerned because my own mother never really explained it all. If I don't think my niece is getting the sexual health attention she needs for her mom, can I give it to her myself?

Birds and Bees Auntie

Dear Birds and Bees Auntie,

I understand your concern and am surprised your niece doesn’t seem to know anything about menstruation. With three older sisters, it seems she would pick it up by osmosis and/or ask her sisters questions. Your sister-in-law may well be assuming the same thing.

So, if you have a relationship with her you could ask her, “How is period time in your house with all those girls?” In other words, start off on a light note. If this seems too touchy, how about your husband asking his brother-in-law? In this day and age, men are far more knowledgeable, comfortable, and involved in what used to be “female issues.”

I am wondering if your niece feigned innocence in order to be closer to you at the water excursion; you would be a better judge of that. In any case, closer is better for her. Try to make a private date with her for lunch and see if you can gently steer the topic to body changes and generalize. Many girls feel confused, naïve, and frightened about their bodies changing; it is good to have an Auntie to check things out with. If you feel comfortable with telling about your teen-times, that would be a wonderful bonding experience and she might open up even more.

Good Luck,
Natalie Robinson Garfield ,

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