I tried Talking about Her Period with my Daughter

I noticed she was squirming in her seat and after a while she slinked off quietly to the bathroom mid conversation with her husband, her brother (my husband) and me. When she came back, I correctly interpreted her discomfort and asked her loudly if she had her periods and if she needed something.

My sister-in-law hit her forehead with the palm of her hand in an exasperated sign, “I knew you would blurt it out in front of everyone!”, everyone been her husband and her brother. Did her husband not know that she has periods? My husband definitely knows about them, I bellyache to all and sundry when I get my periods, a major source of embarrassment for him even after 16 years of marriage.

In fact, he is still against me ordering in pads from our local grocer. His logic being, the delivery boys at the local grocer recognizes us and its ‘icky’ having them deliver pads or them knowing my exact dates!

 

Why is Talking about Her Period still so hushed hushed

Periods is still a topic handled in hushed reverential or disgusted tones even among educated groups of people. Hanging out with my husband’s friends and families, during our early days of marriage, whenever I mentioned out loud about my periods there were eyes popping out, rolling of eyes, furtive glances to each other or half smirks exchanged to indicate the inane person sitting in their midst talking about the taboo topic, all the while my husband turned different shades of red and purple!

16 years later I see a big change in the group in that the men are more understanding, some even willing to talk about the discomfort and offer sympathy, and women relieved to discuss their shared struggle out in the open, willing to share information on their daughters’ periods.

 

Let's have the Period Talk

When my daughter is checking off the phases in her puberty checklist and is fast approaching her menarche phase, with some of her friends and acquaintances menstruating, I must say I am a bit apprehensive about her getting her first periods.

Recently when one of our friend’s daughter got periods her mother didn’t know about it until after a couple of days because the girl didn’t tell her mother for whatever reason. I always thought, since I was so “cool” and open about the topic, my daughter would not have to feel the stigma associated with menstruation, so I'm going to do it. I'm going to talk about her period with my daughter.

So, a few days back we decided to have ‘the talk’ with my 12-year-old daughter and my 9-year-old boy. Why my 9-year-old boy, u ask?

  • One, he should know about puberty, since he will go through it himself.
  • Two, every boy should understand the differences and similarities in the phases of puberty boys and girls undergo.
  • Third and the most important reason, every boy should be sensitized to menstruation, and the physical and mental changes it entails in such a way that they will respect, empathize and help any girl during her periods.

 

An education on menstruation is as important for the boys as it is for the girls.

 

A very close friend of ours did just that with their 14-year-old son, his mom, his sister and his father gave a proper education on periods from their differing perspectives covering the technical, the emotional and the physical changes during.

It had a profound effect on the boy, so much so that he keeps a respectful distance from his sister and gives her space during her periods, where before they used to be on each other like cats and dogs regardless. Of course, he continues irritating and fighting with her when she isn’t menstruating, but small victories!

 

The Period Talk didn't go as planned

So back to the talk with my kids, I envisioned it going very smoothly, ‘cool mom’ scoring with the questions and all, so imagine my shock when we got a very different response. My daughter was in tears as she didn’t want to discuss the topic, she thought it was inappropriate and we are forcing her to have the conversation against her wishes.

We had no idea she felt that way about periods, and I was devastated, more so because I think I might be partly responsible for her views about it.

I have always had heavy flow and all my aches gets really pronounced and it became a regular practice with me to push the kids away during my periods and the prevailing mood was generally morose, snarly and out of action.

She must have picked up on my irritation and discomfort and formed her own ideas of the process. My trying to tell her that it was different when I was her age, and that yes, it is extremely uncomfortable and sometimes painful, but she can manage it, all fell on deaf ears.

She was very adamant that she didn’t want to discuss the disgusting topic with her parents. My boy? Oh, he was very curious, and when we didn’t divulge the info, tried to guess who among their friends got their periods! Needless to say, ‘the talk’ did not go the way we planned.

 

Cultivating a healthy attitude towards menstruation

Regardless of our failed conversation with our kids, it is essential that we cultivate a healthy attitude towards menstruation and an understanding of the hygiene, the emotional, physical and social changes and implications should be discussed with the girls and boys approaching their puberty. It's high time people understand that periods, and talking to your children about periods should not considered a taboo, but an integral and essential part of life and for life.

Continuing with ‘the period talk’, we are regrouping and taking a different approach, there will be a screening of ‘Pad man’ in our house this weekend!

 

By Smita Abraham, proud mother of a teenage girl