‘Oh but I am not so sure I am comfortable talking about it.’
I have read this statement on multiple social media groups as well as in personal conversations where parents, specifically moms are reluctant to address this topic with their girls.
One must think that why haven’t I mentioned the concern of dads about having this conversation with their daughters or why haven’t I mentioned sons; that is because in our South Asian culture, we have a concept of ‘sharm’ (abashment) and ‘lihaaz’ (respect) and these conversations are extremely taboo to discuss.
And hence, in most households, young girls find out about periods when they see an unused or used sanitary pad or from their elder cousins or friends while boys find out about it through internet or their friends.
Yes, most of us found out about periods through accidents and not because our parents sat us down and had a conversation with us.
Now, some of you (and I am assuming most of you are my South Asian readers) might question that why should we put ourselves in awkward situations and have this conversation with our children? They will eventually find it out and if they will have any questions, they will reach out to us, otherwise google search bar is a click away.
Well, it’s not that simple.
When we decide to bring a child into this world, we also sign up to the responsibility of their needs and one of the needs of a child is to be educated; not just formal school education but also basic etiquettes, how to respect people, basic human anatomy, good and bad touch etc.
Just like you potty-train your kids and don’t leave that responsibility to someone else, period talk is as important as this.
Moreover, communication is a two-way street, so, if you have never opened that door for your kids where you are comfortable to have a talk on difficult subjects, why would your kids reach out to you if they have any questions? And trust me, you don’t need your kids to Google this because there is so much on the web and I promise you that you don’t want to expose your kid to all that and lose control over how much and what they know.
Also, the most important reason to have the talk with your kids is to save them from trauma and embarrassment, and they need to be prepared before time. Imagine a 10-years-old wakes up in the middle of the night or is playing in the school during recess and she sees blood trickling down her legs or worse, someone makes fun of the blood stain on her clothes and this little girl has no idea what has happened to her. Imagine the panic they would feel. I am sure we don’t want any kid to go through that misery!
Now you may wonder, ‘but what is the need to educate and have a one-on-one conversation with young boys about it?’
Boys need to be educated because of so many reasons.
One, this is basic human function and there is absolutely no need to stigmatize it.
Two, so that young boys are sympathetic towards women inside and outside their homes instead of embarrassing them or making them feel uncomfortable.
Three, so that they get the right information from a trusted source and can get their questions answered instead of wandering on the internet and landing on the wrong web pages.
Four, such conversations open the door for children to have all kinds of conversations with their parents, it strengthens their bond and they know that they can talk about anything and everything without any judgment.
Now that we have established why is it extremely important to have the period talk with your children, let’s take this discussion further and answer some VERY important questions around this subject.
What is the right age to have this conversation with both girls and boys?
The right age for girls would be before they have their first period; on average girls get their period between age 10-12 which means you have to have the talk before their 10th birthday but you also have to make sure that you don’t overwhelm them with a lot of information during the first conversation. For that, you need to start having the conversation in chunks every now and then.
The right age for boys would be between 12-14 years old when they are also about to hit puberty.
Having said that, there are two things that one need to keep in mind before having this conversation.
First, every child is different and their level of curiosity and maturity also differs; hence, if you feel like your kid is mature or immature from other kids of their age, you have to decide whether it’s the right time to talk or not.
Second, if at any point your kid asks you anything related to their body or menstruation, never lie to them. If you feel that they are too young to know everything, don’t share everything but this will be your cue to start having the conversation in bits and pieces about how their bodies will evolve over time.
What is the right way to have this conversation?
Whether or not this conversation is planned, make sure that you don’t act surprised or get stunned when your kid approaches you with a question. Be very casual, open and confident about it. Make sure you maintain eye-contact with your kid just like you two would in any other conversation. The objective of this conversation should be education as well as room for open discussion between the immediate family members.
Who should have this conversation with their kids?
Both parents need to be involved in this conversation and the kids should be able to reach out to their respective moms and dads (whoever is available) for any kind of help they need or to address their curiosity.
In our society, it is very common that a young girl only asks her mom to buy pads for her or tell her that she is having cramps and not feeling well. It is also pretty common that the girls pretend to carry on their religious obligations in front of the male members of the family even though they are exempted to fast and pray. I believe these customs are mindless and unnecessarily tabooed. Instead of being afraid and keep hiding that a girl is on her period, she should be able to just relax and be comfortable about it.
And no, I don’t mean to make this a dinner table conversation. But just like any member of the family might say that they are having a headache, women should also be able to share if they are feeling physically uncomfortable or having cramps.
Since you are the primary caregiver of your children, this information should come from you and you only and nobody else. Don’t ask your relatives or siblings or parents to have this conversation with your kids, because that’s how you establish healthy boundaries between your kids and rest of the world.
What information needs to be shared about periods?
There are several points of discussions around periods that need to be communicated to kids, for e.g.:
- Why do most women get their period?
- What causes a period?
- How long do periods last?
- How often do periods happens and what is menstrual cycle?
- What is PMS?
- What is normal or not normal during periods?
- What is comforting during a period?
- How to use and dispose off a sanitary pad?
- What to do if the period cycle is irregular or you miss your period?
- What is menstrual hygiene?
Some of the other things that need to be discussed with kids at this age would be:
- What is puberty?
- How is a guy’s puberty different than that of a girl’s?
- What body changes happen during puberty?
- What hormonal changes happen during puberty?
It is very important that you are well-read about these questions and should be ready to get any kind of queries thrown your way. So, do you research and if at any point you find yourself uninformed about anything, let your kid know honestly and tell them that you will research and get back to them.
There is a lot of audio-visual content and reading material available online regarding menstruation and puberty that will help you educate your children. And you never know, you might find yourself learning things along the way.
I request you to please educate your children about periods and puberty and stop stigmatizing it. The stigma around periods discourage conversation which in turns affects awareness and education around It.
This isn’t just my opinion but a parenting issue that needs to be addressed. Just like everything else, you owe this education to your kids.
*the blog picture has been taken from piniterest