Stamping out stigma and shame starts from a young age – and every child should hear about it, period experts tell Imy Brighty-Potts.
When it comes to menstruation, parents and kids alike may feel awkward opening up a dialogue, but this can lead to shame and confusion about the most natural, normal thing in the world.
Without an understanding of our own bodies “we cannot advocate for our own health”, says co-founder of sustainable wellbeing brand Here We Flo, Susan C Allen.
So, how can we encourage children to advocate for themselves and understand their bodies from a young age? And how do parents even begin that conversation if they feel uncomfortable?
Keep it light and make the language accessible
“Make sure the conversation is light and accepting of what is happening. Promote an open conversation and give them space to talk and ask questions,” says Allen.
“They may be scared or excited, be prepared for both. Make the conversation cheeky and happy, that helps to kill the stigma.”
If kids don’t even know how to refer to their own bodies, it becomes more uncomfortable to speak about them.
“Using straightforward language and avoiding euphemisms for body parts is so important for safeguarding and education from any age,” explains Rachel Grocott, CEO of Bloody Good Period.
When we use euphemisms, we make it seem like it’s wrong to talk about our bodies. She says to avoid phrases like ‘feminine hygiene’ and ‘sanitary products’.
“Periods are not unhygienic or unsanitary. Just use the word period.”
Explain the facts
“A period can be a scary thing if it is not discussed. Explain the process and what will actually happen to your kids,” Allen says. Don’t leave it to school biology lessons and talk through the process step-by-step.
Make products accessible
No need to make a big fuss, but Allen says: “It may be helpful to pop some period products in the bathroom, explain what they are and where they are, and the assortment there is for them to choose from.”
Look into children’s books
If your child has questions at a young age and you are willing to have a shameless, honest conversation, Allen says: “Look for books around periods which are illustrated and check out websites like Bloody Good Period for information on language and medical support when it comes to periods.”
Scrap your own shame
If it is clear to your child that you don’t want to discuss it or that you feel shame, it may rub off on them.
“Take some time to explore it as a parent. Check out some of the really open influencers, like Kathryn [King] who runs Bloody Honest. Laugh about it and find unity in your experiences. Show up and learn for your kids,” Allen says.
Equally, by seeking out these resources it will be clearer to you if there is cause for concern, says Grocott.
“Look at the conversations around periods and research what is normal and what isn’t, to enable you to talk to your doctor, and advocate for yourself and your children,” she explains.
Talk to kids regardless of gender
Conversations about periods should go on within families with kids of any gender.
“It is important to talk to kids who won’t menstruate too,” Grocott explains.
“I recently answered a question my son had about periods. He is four. He said, ‘That’s great,’ and went back to playing with his toys. It’s that simple.”
Visit hereweflo.co for more information.