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Talking to Kids about Periods: Two Stories

When you Google how to talk to your kids about periods, the conversation is centred around how to talk to your daughter. But we’re wondering, how important is it to talk to all children, regardless of gender?


One contributing factor to period poverty in Canada is the shame and stigma around menstruation. It’s hard to change something no one wants to talk about! But let’s face it: periods are a normal and essential bodily function, experienced by 50% of the world’s population. We can influence change simply by being more open about periods, and it makes sense to start this conversation at home.


We asked two local parents about how they’re having the conversation and what they’ve learned in the process. 


Jason Dauphinee | Dad + blended family of 6 kids

Talking to a large blended family about menstruation

I'm 48 years old. I live on Vancouver Island and I'm the father of 6 children (4 girls and 2 boys) whom I co-parent with my amazing partner. We are a blended household which came together 11 years ago. The age range of our kids is 24, 21, 19, 18, 16 and 15.

 

Both my partner and I come from backgrounds filled with strong women, both in our personal and professional lives. We wanted to make sure that our children were raised with a deeper understanding of genders, race orientation and overall equality. We want them to find beauty in the things that make us all different rather than prejudice and to not be afraid to challenge preconceived societal views.

Why do you feel talking to your kids about periods is important?

With a large blended family of 4 girls and 2 boys, talking about periods was very important to me. In my teens, as the younger brother to a big sister, I was very aware of the shame that society always placed on periods. Not only that, but I also remember how much she struggled each month with pain and general comfort. Topics such as this can never be understood when they are kept in secret back closets.

 

When we had kids, my partner and I both agreed that talking about periods, what they mean, why they happen and how they feel was important, especially to the boys. In our home it was less about removing stigma, it was about making sure there never was one. It was also very important to me for my boys to have a true understanding and appreciation of what periods are and what women go through.  

What do you know now that you wish you knew when you first chatted with them?

Looking back, I wish I had a better or deeper knowledge on the different types and styles of products—how they worked, their benefits, etc.

One tip for how to best support your kids who menstruate?

I really think love, caring, understanding and knowledge are all really important. By demystifying it through regular conversation, it eliminates much of the fear, embarrassment that happens when the topic is kept a secret or never spoken of.

What do your kids feel is the biggest tip they can give a parent who needs to talk to their kids about menstruation?

I think this is important to quote directly from their responses. Included are 3 of my daughters and oldest son:


Eden (16)

"Don’t make it a big deal and don’t make it super obvious and overwhelming"


Savannah (21)

“To explain all the different options girls have in terms of managing their periods. Less stigma around allowing girls to go on birth control and talking about the different symptoms. A lot of girls think that what they are feeling in regards to their period is not normal (extreme pain, nausea, dizziness, numbness), when in fact these are all regular things that happen every day. But also going over the symptoms that aren’t normal and allowing that conversation to take place. Reminding girls that the method they take to look after their menstrual health is theirs alone. Whether through period cups or pads or IUDs (as these methods are not just birth control but also period management tools)." 


Nadia (19)

"Education in school is a start but as a parent I would explain how products work and how to use them, show them pictures of the different kinds (like night time pads, super tampons, etc). Being super open about it too and making it seem like an "okay thing", talk to them about how it’s different for everyone. Being nervous about it is definitely a first response for young girls and its best to ease that anxiety. As a boy, I would explain how important the process is and it's never something to tease about. Don’t compare, and it shouldn’t be a taboo thing to talk about at any time"


Logan (18)

"I think menstruation should be treated as a normal part of human development. And it shouldn’t be a super-taboo subject like it normally is a lot of the time."



Wendi Seskus-James | Mom + son

How to talk to your son about periods | joni organic bamboo period care

 

I live in Victoria, BC, with my husband of 20 + years, and our 10-year-old son. When we first discussed having a child, I said “only if we have a girl and not a stinky little boy.” Well, we have a stinky little boy and we couldn’t be happier. He’s always had a strong sense of justice, and I encourage him to question the status quo. Our goal is to raise an empathic, socially minded, and self-possessed human being who raises others up around him.

Why do you feel talking to your kids about periods is important?

Can you imagine the horror of getting your first period at school, knowing nothing about it? This happened to my mom. In turn, she was sure to tell me everything, complete with a diagram, yet the familial secrecy around it left me feeling ashamed. So when I got my first period, I hid it for a few months until my mom discovered a bloody pair of shorts. 


When I gave birth to a boy, I initially thought I wouldn’t need to have that conversation. I hid my period products away in drawers to avoid his curious questions. Nonetheless, when our keen observer was about five he asked, “What’s that thing that looks like a big bandaid?” I brushed him off, “Oh, it’s something for women.” 


As he became more curious about bodies, it dawned on me that if I withheld information or acted embaressed, I would be sending a message that I didn’t want him to receive: that there’s something shameful about bodies. 


So at nine, when he shyly asked me again about periods, I reassured him with a smile that it was a normal thing to talk about. He had already learned at school that it was an embarrassing thing that happens to girls. Ack! How had I contributed to this message? Now we talk about it, I let him know when I have my period, and I leave my joni pads out for him to see. This is a normal thing! I’ve been teaching myself this as I teach him. 


Recently, I was so very proud when I explained joni’s one-for-one model that helps Canadians because, sadly, not everyone can afford period care. 


“What? That’s not fair!” He exclaimed. “They need it for their health. It should be free. Pads should be part of healthcare!” This! This is the result of talking to boys about periods and period equity! These are boys that grow into men who will fight for fairness. 

What do you know now that you wish you knew when you first chatted with them?

If I could go back in time, I would never have hid my period products, and treated the subject just as I would have with any other bodily function.

One tip for how to best support your kids who menstruate?

I recently heard a story on social media about a girl who got her first period on the bus. An older boy quietly mentioned she had a spot on the back of her pants, and offered her his sweatshirt to tie around her waist. She was too embarrassed to accept, but he reassured her by saying he had sisters. My heart fills up every time I think about it!

 

I want my son to grow up to be this boy, and eventually a man who supports the girls and women in his life as this boy did. The best way I can support him is to be transparent and open about my periods, my cramps, and other symptoms so he understands and further develops empathy.

What do your kids feel is the biggest tip they can give a parent who needs to talk to their kids about menstruation?

My biggest tip to all parents is to talk to their kids, male or female, any age, about periods. If they’re very little, don’t hide your period care items. Littles are so curious and very perceptive. Help them understand this is normal. And it’s never too late! If you have a teenage boy, for instance, and have never had that talk, I would start by asking them what they know, how they feel, and if they have any questions.

 

Most tweens and teens I know are very socially minded as well, so introducing the idea of period poverty versus period equity is essential. Awareness now equals advocacy later.

 


 

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