Fatherhood Series: Why menstrual education is important for both girls AND boys

To round up our amazing Fatherhood Series, we have the Marketing Director of TOTM (Time of the Month), an organic femcare brand giving a really insightful piece on why menstrual education is important for both boys and girls.

Why menstrual education is important for both girls AND boys

As a father of two boys, I’m often asked, “do you talk to them about tampons?”. This certainly isn’t the sort of question most dad’s get on fatherhood, but there is context to the question.

I’m the Marketing Director of TOTM, an organic femcare brand – which fascinates my friends no end. For some reason, me being male, working within a femcare company, seems to generate endless questions:

‘Do you have tampons on your desk?’

‘How many times a day do you say vagina?’

‘What’s the different between a pad and liner?’

‘What are those cup things?’

They don’t ask these questions to laugh, or be childish. In the most part, they’re just trying to learn about something new to them. I’ve somehow become a resource, and a window to a world that they’ve never heard much about before. I’m their encyclopaedia of menstruation, providing the education to them that we never had in school.

We SHOULD be talking about periods

So, this is why it irks me a little when they ask if I speak to my boys about periods, because why wouldn’t I?

“You’re 32 years old, and learning about periods from your buddy in the pub.” I said to a friend who asked if I was ‘honest’ with my 5-year-old boy about what the tampons around my house were. “Of course, I’m honest with him, otherwise I just reinforce the idea that it’s something that should be hidden away”, I pointed out to him.

There are many issues with the menstrual education in this country. It can be too late, too biologically focussed (not giving enough attention to the options girls have to manage their periods), and it’s for girls only.

Each of those three points creates real problems, all of which need addressing. But the last point is the only one I want to address.

Separate sex-education

Strangely, I still remember the day at school when we were taught sex-ed (which is perhaps evidence that it came too late). We all walked to the science block as usual, dragging our feet to make the most of the 5mins allotted walk between classes. But when we got inside the teachers were stood in the corridor splitting boys and girls into separate rooms. In the boy’s class we were taught that our testicles actually had a purpose, and that we were all about to start sprouting hair in new places. Though a quick look around the room proved that message was late for some…and yet I’m still waiting on gloriously thick beard I was promised.

I’ll never know for certain what was said in the girl’s room, but I learned enough from some of the girls to know that it was about their period. And I remember the conflict in attitude as we came out of the classes. The boys counting armpit hairs to see who had the most, or any at all, while the girls were mostly quiet.

It’s important to improve education

Now, I’m assured that menstrual education has improved over the last 20yrs. However, in the most part, boys are still excluded from this. And that is my major issue.

I firmly believe that when we separate boys and girls, teaching only girls about menstruation, we’re sending the message it isn’t something that should be discussed with boys. It’s something that should be hidden, and only spoken about in quiet whisper between girls. This, I believe, is one of the major reasons the stigma and taboo surrounding periods still exists.

Why are TOTM encouraging #TalkingPeriods?

At TOTM, we’re doing what we can to encourage open conversation around periods. We recently ran a campaign called #TalkingPeriods where we encouraged bloggers, influencers, and anyone else on social media to share their periods stories, tips, tricks and hacks. We’re challenging the stigma.

There’s a long way to go to improve attitudes towards menstruation. It can be difficult to change people’s affirmed attitudes. But there is something better and arguably easier that we could be doing. We could do a better job of being honest with the next and future generations about periods.

Kid’s don’t have opinions about periods, let’s not help them form the wrong ones.

Check out TOTM lasted campaign – period powerful https://www.totm.com/campaign/period-powerful/

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Fatherhood Series: Kofi (40)

As the month draws to a close we have a reflective account from Kofi about the subject of Periods and his daughter’s first experience.

When I was growing up my older sisters spoke about their periods so I knew what it was but not in too much detail.

I didn’t give it much thought but as I have grown and had relationships, I have gained more knowledge about periods and the impact it has on a woman’s life.

Reservations?

I had reservations at first but due to my relationship with my daughter it was easy to speak to her about it.

I had forgotten about it till she had her first one at my house. She knew what it was as some of her friends had theirs and they spoke about it

Hindsight….

I would have preferred to have spoken to her about it in detail before she had her first, but I had mention it to her prior.

Her mum had spoken to her about it as well, so it wasn’t a hard conversation

Changes in attitude

My attitude to periods has changed since I was a child. Growing up around two sisters and general life experiences has thought me a great deal about periods.

I was taught about the human body and the reproductive system in school, these lessons also broaden my knowledge about periods but being with my daughter when she experienced her first period has brought it much closer to home.

Many thanks to Kofi for taking the time to share his and his daughter’s experience.

Kofi also highlighted the unpredictability of the first period but it was great to hear that both parents took the responsibility to have the “period talk”.

Check out the rest of the Fatherhood series below:

Bobby’s experience

DJ’s experience

Jasper’s experience

Fatherhood Series: Jasper (40)

In celebration of FATHERS DAY, this week’s instalment of the Fatherhood series is with Jasper, a father in a co-parenting situation.

He explains how his upbringing has affected his approach to Periods and how he has been tackling the “Period Talk” with his daughter.

Growing up I was fortunate to be surrounded by a mum who had a lot of female friends. Most conversations were from a female perspective and included periods. This conversation was then opened to involve me, to make me aware of what a period meant and what it involved.

Through education I knew and understood things prior to being a father. The topic was covered in depth so I didn’t really change my thought process once I became a father. The only difference was I would be able to explain from a male/fathers perspective……. Nothing really changed.

Reservations??

I was fine and didnt have many reservations apart from wondering if she would be able to understand what was going to happen however as we are open about everything I didn’t feel any anxiety about the conversations….. plus her mum also made sure she discussed the subject with her.

I /we (as parents) approached the subject as soon as we saw her going through puberty and started seeing signs such as the emotional change and the bodily changes such as hair and spots. We knew it was better to both prepare her.

Also her mum was going away and wanted to know that if her period came, she would know what to expect and what to ask me for.

Approach ??

There was not other way to approach the topic given hindsight. As long as we were all open, I knew it wasn’t that much of an issue.

Changes in attitude now your daughter is a pre teen??

My attitude hasn’t change as I was given a lot of information at a young age, however the only part was explaining about swimming while on a period and the different types of pads available (such as tampons) which I asked her mum to explain to her as it could lead to a sexual health conversation.

Many thanks to Jasper for taking the time to share his experience.

Jasper highlights the benefits of great communication in a co-parenting situation and how it can help ease the anxiety of a first period not only for the child but also for the parents.

Happy Father’s Day Guys!!!

Check out the rest of the Fatherhood series below:

Bobby’s experience

DJ’s experience

Fatherhood Series: Bobby (33)

As Father’s day falls in the Month of June we thought we will celebrate by talking to fathers about periods with their children. 

Today is the turn of Bobby a single dad who despite not having discussions about periods in his youth, felt able to discuss the issue with his ten year old daughter. 

I enjoy being a father to a girl in lots of ways I think it s probably a lot easier than being a father to a son. I enjoy our relationship and we have a lot of fun. There are lots of things that I am probably not as equipped to deal with as a mother would be, such as periods but I ask female friends and relatives for advice and some of them help me deal directly with my daughter on some of these issues.

Broaching the Subject with a little help. 

As she began to get older and develop it was clear that her periods may come at any time. I want her to be as prepared as possible so that she does not have an embarrassing experience at school as I think that may really effect her confidence and that is what I am most concerned about.

I actually got the help of a close friend who is close to my daughter to talk with her about it first. They know my daughter very well and have a very close relationship with her. Since then I have been quite upfront about it ensuring she has a pad in her school bag as she gets older and talking about the subject without being shy or uncomfortable about it- just to show that it is a normal thing. If my daughter feels shy to talk about it  I tend to just explain that it is a normal thing. If I sense she is really uncomfortable talking to me about certain things that surround it then an aunt or my mum would step in once I explain the situation.

Final Thoughts and Reflections

I don’t think I thought about periods at all when I was younger. My attitude has towards periods have changed since I was a child. I am concerned about the other effects that puberty may have on her and how to deal with them.

I am happy with the way that I carried out the conversations. Getting support from other members of my family and talking about it very frankly to show my daughter that there is nothing to be embarrassed about.

best dad period

Thanks to Bobby for taking the time to share his experience. Bobby’s fearless ability to start a dialogue on periods to his daughter shows that Dads can more than successfully manage the sensitive topic!

Additionally Bobby has shown us that recruiting support from an important female role model in a child’s life can help provide further depth to the ‘period talk’. 

What male figures have you spoken to about periods? 

Is talking to men about periods still an uncomfortable topic? 

Let us know in the comment section.
Check out Dj's experience

 

Fatherhood Series : DJ (39)

In honour of the upcoming Father’s Day, we have dedicated the month of June to Father-Daughter stories.

We kick off our Fatherhood Series with a touching account from DJ

We sat down with DJ, a father of a pre teen, to get his view all things periods.

When you were growing up did anyone speak to you about periods?

Yes. In sixth form and college discussions but I don’t remember much talk about it before then.

Thoughts/Opinions on periods prior to being a father to a girl

It hadn’t really crossed my mind…..

I’ve been lucky as daughter’s primary school started on the subject and those questions were a sign for my wife to have “the talk” and explained to her.

How did you first broach it with your daughter ?

The topic came up randomly one day and as my daughter was quite informed, she was trying to educate me……. but the conversation was quite simple / basic and we basically spoke about what she knew.

Did you have any reservations ?

No…. it’s necessary that I’m included…. I’m her dad !

How do you feel about talking to her about it ?

I feel fine, it’s natural – if I’m awkward, it will be awkward.

My view is it’s information she needs to understands and will ultimately experience, so no problem for me.

Why did you choose to do so when you did/ is there a right time to broach the subject ?

Although she has not started yet, she is beginning to grow up and on discussion with my wife, we felt the time was fast approaching. The opening conversation from the school just sped up the process.

So I guess there is no right time…. I think it depends on the child.

In hindsight would you of prepared differently for the conversation ?

No, I think she is well prepared now.

If you didn’t broach the subject who did / why was that person best placed to speak with your daughter ?

I feel like her mother’s life experience made her the perfect person to start off the conversation but it should be noted that daddy’s can play a role too.

Check out the other instalments in this series:

Bobby

Jasper