A girl finds out she has become a woman, over the course of a single day. Getting one’s period is a biologically natural phenomenon that signals a healthy body and initiates a girl into womanhood.
Rather than acknowledging menstrual cycles, it is seen as a ‘disturbance’ or ‘shame’ to conventional society and a girl’s first period is seen with sadness, shame and guilt – all of which leaves a lasting impact. The reactions from people around them stem from one single place – ignorance to understanding the subject. As a parent, relative, older sibling or teacher – we have a responsibility to prepare young women into this next stage of their life, shining light on the process of menstrual cycles.
Menstruation cycles are to be celebrated as they represent the beauty of a woman and life. Here we prepare a guide on how to go about this:
As a parent
The subject of periods is a subject for all, while this conversation is considered to be between mother and daughter, involvement of the father is definitely encouraged for healthy discussions. It is important to inform all the members of the house on how to react and what do to when the girl gets her first period. Reactions that indicate embarrassment, shame or awkwardness must be avoided at all costs.
The best time to have this conversation is between 10-12 years of age, before she gets her periods. This prepares her on what to expect rather than grasp everything at once. Take the help of online portals on the science of menstrual cycles and why it is needed. Aditi Gupta, founder of Menstropedia features on a TED talk that shines the light on taboo-free discussions on menstrual cycles. Watch learning videos and read content together with your daughter and encourage her to ask questions. Teach her how to wear pads, or the various hygiene options open to her. Let her have a say in what she wants to try. Perhaps let her wear and try out different products beforehand so she has an idea of how to use them and can get comfortable.
As a teacher
Most schools, unfortunately limits discussions on menstrual cycles to biology lessons, a mere chapter that barely touches upon the process or prepares young women. There are plenty of resources that teachers can tap into to encourage learning about menstrual cycles and helping young women get through their first experience with minimum fuss and plenty of support. There are organisations which carry out talks enlisting the help of experts, with the goal to educate rather than skimming over subjects for the sake of it. Teachers can create their own program, making a system of what the students can do or who they can talk to regarding periods. Perhaps bringing a gynaecologist on-site to further talk about the science and any queries young women may have. Reading material in the form of brochures or books should be readily accessible in the common areas of the school.
Things to remember when your daughter gets her period
It is important to be as normal, calm, respectful and mindful as possible. Make sure your daughter is as comfortable as possible by offering emotional support, and asking how to she feels. Give her practical instructions on how to use her menstrual product of choice or whatever is available. Offer to talk to her when she is ready to understand what is happening to her body, if she is in an emotional state it is better to leave the details for a later time.
It is important to understand that menstrual cycles are natural, and meant to empower women not disempower them. We all play a crucial role in informing each other towards a more educated and equal society, especially for the next generation.