Let’s be honest: most of us are livid that 84 people on this island were so disgusted by menstruation, that they felt the need to complain about a Tampax commercial which aired last year (here's the link in case you missed it). When the ad first aired, I was impressed with its openness and enthusiasm. When it was pulled, we all had the rare opportunity to hop in a time machine and witness an Ireland of the past, held firmly under the thumb of the Catholic Church.
I have to say, this scared me. To think that there are still some little girls growing up in a home where their cartel of pads are transported in secret from shopping bags and hidden gingerly in the hotpress to ensure that no male family member will ever find the stash.
This is the ultimate recipe for shame and embarrassment and should no longer be tolerated. I believe period-positivity within families is needed to remedy this, and I've come up with a few key concepts from my own experience of raising a period-positive child.
I talk openly about my period with my partner – and everyone else in my home.
In our house we are lucky. We have no choice but to talk about periods openly because several adult women are living under one roof. My six-year-old daughter knows that some of us have pain during our periods and some of us don’t. She knows why blood appears in the loo from time to time – and more importantly, why this shouldn’t worry her. You’d be surprised how understanding kids can be.
If you don’t already, it’s time to start chatting casually about your period with the person who you will be parenting with. Everyone living and spending time with your daughter should be as period-positive as you are and this includes the boys and men in her life.
A quick google on how to talk to your kid about periods will give you step-by-step guide on how to approach the subject… with your daughter. This isn’t good enough. Leaving boys out of this conversation doesn’t do them any favours and only tells girls that boys should be shielded from the conversation, creating that shame we’ve all experienced.
The age of ‘the talk’ is in the past
I am by no means an expert but it always seemed clear to me that if you hide your period from your little ones, you are unconsciously placing menstruation in a shameful space. You are also setting yourself up for the big red ‘reveal’ in years to come. I believe that there should never be a need for us to sit down and tell our daughters about menstruation. The talk we got as pimply pre-teens was just as painful as the cramps themselves.
Like many parents, I rarely get to use the loo or shower alone. Though the audience drives mums and dads mad, it lets our kids know that what happens on the loo is nothing to be embarrassed about. This includes changing tampons and pads etc. If you never hide your period, it will never be seen as something that needs to be hidden.
In my experience, kids are better at understanding the human body than most adults. The more they understand the process behind getting your period, the more comfortable they will be.
When my daughter first asked, ‘why do you get a period?’ (she was around five) I explained that my uterus gets ready to house a fertilised egg every month, and when the egg isn’t fertilized, the uterine lining sheds. After are few follow up questions (what is the uterine lining? and please can we fertilise the egg next time?), my baby was satisfied.
For centuries, society has made the concept of menstruation complicated. The truth is, your child will find it as normal and shameless as any other bathroom activity if you allow them to. It all started with you and the other people in your child's life.