Talking to boys about periods - feel the fear and do it anyway!

Feel the fear and do it anyway – Talking to boys about periods!

Sal and I grew up in a home where our parents weren’t shy about their bodies, I guess you’d say now they were body positive or budding nudists!  You could say the bathroom door was always open… that’s not to say they didn’t respect our privacy, they very much did but as a family we were (and still are) open about bodies and bodily functions.  

For me my period education came from both school and my mum, a friend at school started her period at the age of 9 (Year 5 in today’s schools). Looking back that probably helped me prepare for starting my period and gave me the curiosity to ask my mum more questions about what happens and how to deal with it.  Maybe I didn’t ask the right questions though as I admit I thought that it would start as a river of blood cascading down my leg with the ferocity of a water canon! As it happens I started my period age 12 and there was, thankfully, no river!

Fast forward 30 plus years and I am now a mum of two boys age 15 and 11, like when I was at home I have tried to create a relaxed environment where we talk about real life things, like periods in an open and light hearted way.  I didn’t sit them down formerly and say ‘now we’re going to talk about periods’ but I made sure that my sanitary products were in the bathroom cabinet and not ‘hidden’ away. Seeing these items make for conversation starters or inquisitive prompts and provide the vital link between what you’re told at school and real life.   I may have left my menstrual cup on the side or occasionally they may have seen blood in the toilet bowl … but hey ho I feel it’s important to deal with these bodily fluids pragmatically and as they are…. a normal and healthy fact of life!  I tried to explain in simple terms what menstruation is, why it happens and what PMS is but more importantly how none of us would be here without it!

My advice would be to not overthink it and to let these conversations happen as naturally as possible, use plain language in a clear and concise way use that normalises periods and encourages a two way conversation.  If your child is learning about puberty at school it might be an opportunity to start the conversation, it might take a few twists and turns along the way and that’s great, just go where the conversation takes you.

I am reliably informed by my husband (a primary school teacher) that schools are making strides in this area.  Period Positive founder Chella Quint has launched a new toolkit for schools to provide a more thoughtful, inclusive and positive approach to periods.  This new approach is not just period talk but provides a holistic approach to menstrual literacy covering knowledge and understanding on periods, puberty, menstrual wellbeing and menopause. Thankfully it seems the 90s method of teaching girls about periods and boys about wet dreams are a thing of the past. There is still a long way to go to break down the stigmas around periods, recent research carried out by ActionAidUK revealed that a quarter of UK women have experienced ‘period shaming’ with one in ten revealing that a partner had commented negatively about their period.

Teaching all kids (and even partners!) about periods both at home and at school will mean they’re more comfortable opening up conversations with their friends.  As parents and carers it’s our job to guide our kids through the trials and tribulations of growing up, whatever the topic periods, hormones, relationships, sexuality and social media. Whilst we don’t have all the answers and don’t always get it right it’s important we keep the chats going to equip our kids with knowledge, empathy and openness to carry through into adulthood.

It’s not always easy, it can be a difficult balance striking the right tone… my favourite print on my front room wall by an artist called Wasted Rita sums up these parent-child chats quite nicely ‘Everything is cringe and I feel constantly embarrassed’ but I say feel the fear and do it anyway!

Clearly I still have a way to go…..when I asked my eldest if I could take a photo of him to include with this piece he said ‘not if it’s going on your va*** account!!!!


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