I grew up in a joint family. We are three sisters and I am the middle one. I do remember in Grade seven, having a session in our all-girls school where a video was played explaining what menstruation is all about. Learning about periods is a difficult subject for children at that age. I think all females will agree that you do not really understand what it means unless you have your first period.
Next year we shifted residence and I moved to a Co-Educational School. It was a year of adjustment for me. One day a girl had her first period in the school and stained her uniform. While she was embarrassed to the core, the boys were all giggles. To be honest, I was scared and prayed this should never happen to me. Thankfully for me, I was at home when I got it for the first time and had my elder sister around to comfort me emotionally as my mother did not have any friendly conversation with me regarding this topic.
I also remember once my paternal aunt and her kids had come to stay with us during summer vacations. Her son is one year younger to me. He saw me going to the restroom with a sanitary pad wrapped in newspaper and said: “I know what it is, my mother keeps it at home and I have seen the ad in Television too”. I felt like a culprit caught red-handed and did not know what to say.
I just wish how in both the situations the behaviour of the opposite gender could have been different and better.
I am now a mother to two boys in their tweens and do try to raise them without any gender bias. I try to be mindful while assigning the household chores to my boys. They do support me as much any girl in the traditional household were expected to do. They know it is okay to cry when not feeling alright and being a boy does not change that. The rules are quite clear in our home. These things may seem small but go a long way in having kids who grow up without any gender biases or stereotypes.
Should we talk to boys about periods?
Half the population has periods, so why not make sure the half that doesn’t is also adequately informed. Times have changed now and so has the parenting style. Parents are now more open and friendly while having conversation with their children. I feel my elder son would be ready in a couple of months to hear about menstruation from his parents, and we would want to be honest with him. As it could be an awkward topic to discuss I would want to be prepared ahead of time for that. My idea of wanting to explain it to my kids would be to ensure that they grow up to be allies and empathisers.
Conversation about this topic at home would help children create healthier relationships with their female counterparts. Until we change attitudes, the conversation surrounding menstruation will continue to be hush-hush.
Understanding menstruation can help boys be more compassionate brothers, sons, boyfriends, and fathers or to simply put it- better human beings. There are changes in the female body during periods beyond cramps and the opposite sex can be made sensitive to that.
The more boys understand the experience the opposite sex goes through during menstruation, the more we can help erase the stigma, shame or even teasing that has been associated with periods.
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