This month, mummy blogger, Dolly Osborne, discusses how to talk to children about periods.
Each year spring is sprung with sugar coated imagery about new life. Frolicking lambs, gambolling rabbits, cute fluffy chicks and chocolate eggs. The wholesome, happy scenes of Easter might be rather different if the coming of new life was portrayed as the gore-fest that it is. Don’t worry, your roast lamb is safe. I’m not talking about the meat industry. I’m talking about periods.
My 12-year-old son came home a little pale the other day and when I enquired why he seemed to shudder a little and said: “We learned about periods.”
I decided to stay fairly quiet and let him ask what he needed to ask. My memory of period lessons from primary school were that the boys were separated out from the girls, and the girls were sat before the intimidating sight of the buxom nurse who we only usually associated with injections and nits.
This time ‘Nitty Nora’ had all sorts of props with her and the girls were all horrified at the sight of looped towels and their accompanying scaffolding. We later emerged shaken but slightly smug as we knew things the boys didn’t and carried that special knowledge around with a swagger until the horror of monthly haemorrhage started in the following years.
Even into my teenage years’ periods were seldom talked about, definitely not without ridiculous euphemisms like ‘Aunt Flo’, ‘the painters are in’, or the horrifying ‘Liverpool are playing at home’ (even as a Kloppite I’m not comfortable with my vagina being liked to Anfield). As a feminist mother of a boy I decided early on to be frank about functions of all bodies and so I was fascinated to hear what the school could have told him that I hadn’t.
He sat down next to me, gazed at me in a sincere, worried kind of way and said: “Have you ever used tampons?” When I said I had he exclaimed: “but the string just hangs out of you! You have to put the whole thing inside you, what if you lost it?” I explained that as the vagina isn’t a 60,000 seater football stadium losing it was unlikely but that you did need to remember to change them because of toxic shock or leakage. He looked at me as if I was a war hero. But he was clearly steeling himself for more. Reassured he decided to breach the thing which had clearly shaken him the most: “What about those cups? They just sit inside you? How? How do you get them out? Why would you use one?” I explained the function of a mooncup and how for many people they are the best choice, how environmentally friendly they are etc.
Eventually he seemed to have his queries answered and had a new-found empathy for those who have periods. He clutched my hand…”and this happens every month?”…“Well until the menopause but that’s a whole other story…” again the sincere eye lock “Not for today then Mum, not today…”