I should preface this by saying I am not a parent. I do not plan to become one any time soon. Although I don’t know what it’s like to raise kids, I am somebody who was raised in a household where virtually nothing was off limits. Always encouraged to ask questions, I believe this played a big part in shaping my attitude towards periods.
In spite of all this, I have had quite a turbulent relationship with my periods. Processing my experiences has made me realise there are some things I wish I had known before menstruating.
We must talk to children of all genders
Inclusivity means including everyone in the conversation, it should be no different when it comes to periods. I cannot count the amount of experiences I had growing up that would have been easier if I was dealing with people who were equipped to deal with periods. Most namely my non-menstruating counterparts; it sucks to feel ostracised when you’re already struggling with your period!
One thing I always like to remind people who don’t menstruate is that they can still help better periods for people. By talking to your children about periods we can help break the cycle of miseducation, shame and ostracisation.
Focus on cycles, not just periods
When we first learn about periods, we learn about the menstrual cycle in passing or in very basic terms. It’s considered the “proper” term, but how many of us truly understand what the menstrual is? If you’re going to talk to your kids about periods, teach them about the menstrual cycle too.
Inform them of what each stage does, how long it typically lasts and the fact it can change each month. Tell them about things to make note of. For example, bleeding outside of your period is sometimes cause for concern. We should know this before we experience it! Teach them about PMS symptoms, irregular periods, that it’s not normal to be in excruciating pain, and how to advocate for themselves.
Talking periods with kids should include everything that comes with menstruating
When I think about all the things I wish I knew before menstruating, I wish I had more knowledge of barriers I would face. Things such as social stigma and dealing with dismissive doctors may have been easier if I had some warning.
There is of course so much we learn as we mature and by simply getting to know our bodies. Ultimately when it comes to periods with kids, teach them they are nothing to be ashamed of.