Did you know in South Africa, over 7 million girls and children who menstruate don’t have access to sanitary products? I’m Joe, from the international educational publisher, Twinkl. Twinkl was founded in 2010, with a goal of ‘helping those who teach’. We do this by providing high-quality, teacher-created & trusted educational materials. As part of this commitment to helping those who teach, we’ve recently tried to start conversations that we think are long overdue around periods.
Talking to your children about menstruation is an essential part of their development, especially as they approach the age where such changes will be happening to them. It can be difficult to know where to start so we decided to give our top tips on how to make sure any dialogue is open and supportive:
1. Establish what knowledge they have:
Ask your children what they know about puberty, periods and what they think may or may not happen. Even if it’s nothing, it’s useful to know so that you know where to begin. Equally, here, if there’s any knowledge you don’t have, it can help to let them know from the start that you don’t necessarily have all the answers. This is less about establishing awareness than it is about establishing trust with children, on both sides.
2. Be open and direct with your language:
Don’t use other phrases to avoid the issue, just call it a period. Using multiple terms could be confusing for younger children, but it can also potentially be harmful to them by making them feel it’s something they need to hide away and further perpetuates the use of euphemisms like “that time of the month”. By not disguising it, you can give them the confidence to own their periods.
3. Make sure to normalise their experience:
The one thing that is the same about everyone’s stories from their teenage years is that no one’s story is exactly the same. Relate your own story to them whether you menstruate or not, but make it clear how it is not the only story. Not everyone gets their period at the same time, everyone’s flow is different and some people might not even get their period at all. Letting them know that whatever happens, they aren’t doing anything wrong or concerning is vital.
4. Don’t limit the conversation to people who menstruate:
Make sure every child knows about this, regardless of gender. It’s important to make sure ALL children know what menstruators experience. Once again, it’s all about destigmatising the process from every angle. It’s only through normalising the process that things are able to change positively.
5. Make sure both parents are involved:
Sorry to use heteronormative gender roles but this is not just an issue for Mom, Dad should be a part of this too. Especially, if you are explaining this to your son, seeing that Dad is just as willing to listen and learn is important. This shows that it’s not something menstruators have to go through alone or in silence.
6. Be aware this isn’t just one conversation:
There’s a lot of information to cover and you will probably need to be prepared for follow-ups, and questions lots of questions! But, the important thing to remember is you don’t need to have all the answers, because for that…
7. You don’t always have to do all the work:
No one expects you to know everything about periods, even if you menstruate too! But that doesn’t mean when a question is asked and you don’t have an answer, you don’t know where to look. Try reading up on the subject or using articles and videos online to prepare your answers. Here’s a great resource to help you when you’re looking for information.
8. Don’t be too hard on yourself:
You might not be able to cover everything, you might not get everything right but really, you don’t need to. All you need to be is there and willing to have these conversations. This is what matters.
This article was co-written by educational publisher, Twinkl. They have published a pack of free resources to help aid Period Education along with supporting articles covering information similar to this and much more! To support this, their team has been fantastically busy writing about the subject as well: