Each time when I go to the supermarket with a long list of things to buy, it also has the sanitary napkins in it. If my daughter is with me on one of these shopping sprees and while I go through the racks with the sanitary pads on them she is all smiles. She is like, “Ma, I have stopped wearing diapers, so why are you taking these”. So one day I just told her, “these diapers are for Mumma. Sometimes she wets her bed and is lazy to get up at night”. She quickly downloaded this information in her tiny brain. Next time around we went, she started laughing and reminding me, “Mom, your diapers”. And another time she saw an advertisement, so she walked up to me and said, “see they are showing it on the television as well, so its fine if you wear them too.”
My daughter, only 6 now is full of not only innocence but also curiosity. With each passing day, she becomes more and more curious. In another 6-7 years, she will hit puberty with the onset of periods. Though, considered a taboo to talk about menstruation, I would and will definitely talk to her about this important milestone in her life. Also, I will take full responsibility to teach her about appropriate menstrual hygiene.
While we make it a point to talk to our daughters, we forget our sons. Just because they don’t get periods, it does not mean that they should solely ignore the fact that others around them get it. It is equally important to talk to them as well.
Boys especially in India where they are considered Lords can be very ignorant about the periods. I know a guy who did not know what sanitary napkins were used for until he got married. Of course, he was also unaware of the fact that girls get periods and they have cramps and other hormonal changes during those 3-4 days. He used to think that since women can not go around peeing at every corner like the boys, they wear pads, which in turn helps them in an urgent leak, absorbs the urine and facilitates them in easy toileting. There have been other instances where men think that a woman cannot get pregnant if they have sex when she is on her period.
Keeping periods a secret from the boys only embeds in them that it is not their problem and it is bad to discuss the same as it is dirty and impure. I find it pretty unfair to differentiate girls and boys when it comes to the period talks as if it is the whole sole responsibility of a girl trying to cope with the emotional effects, period protection and on top of that a risk of pregnancy.
Teaching and talking to boys about periods only helps them to become comfortable when they see peers, female colleagues or someone at home going through this. They will understand why their mothers or sisters feel so stressed out and in turn will become empathetic and better husband and fathers. In short, they will not find it embarrassing.
Here’s how we can talk to both girls and boys about periods:
- Brief them about periods much before they start: Most girls start their periods between 11-13 years of age. However, some can also start at 8 years. So if they are aware, they won’t be surprised when they see the first signs. They won’t feel that they are dying. For boys, they can take care of their sisters and mothers by sharing their workload or by just giving them a hot water bag and some hot coffee.
- Don’t make it a serious chat: Do keep it in mind that it should not be a serious chat. Make the conversation as casual and simple as it can be. Try to spread this vast topic under smaller conversations. Too much information in one go can be overwhelming.
- Answer their questions honestly: Both boys and girls show body changes, some quite visible while some not. When they ask about their body changes, answer them honestly. These questions are just opportunities for you to increase their knowledge. This also gives them an assurance that their parents are there for them and can discuss anything with them.
- Don’t label periods as a curse: Tell positive things about periods to your children. Don’t label it as disgusting or a curse, since they will also have a negative impression about the same. Tell them that it is a beautiful phase and a necessary process of growing up and turning into a lady. Also, don’t shy to give safe sex talks to both boys and girls, as this phase marks that the girl can get pregnant.
- Explain to boys why only girls have periods: Tell them that while they have puberty changes like the growth of facial hair and hoarsening of voice, similarly, girls get periods. These happen because they have changes in the uterus which is just a body part they have and the boys don’t have.
- Don’t hide the pads and tampons: Don’t go around hiding the sanitary napkins and tampons. Be calm about the whole thing because it is very normal to see period products in each house. Let your daughter know where your stash is kept, in case she needs it in an emergency when she gets her first period.
So next time when your child, be it girl or boy asks you questions and particularly questions on periods, then don’t shy away. Give them age-appropriate answers and be as comfortable with them as you can be. After all, they are just curious and asking you questions which you once wondered about as a kid.
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