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Period Shaming – Here’s how parents can put an end to it

Period shaming is common not only in South Africa but also around the world - and it's time we all put a stop to it!

Period shaming is more frequent than you might believe and it can be extremely harmful to children.

Being the victim of this type of bullying can cause worry, despair, and an inability to love oneself and one’s body, all of which have a severe effect on a child’s mental health and well-being. This is a significant burden to bear on top of the other challenges that children face while navigating school and the real world.

As a result, parents must be proactive by openly discussing menstruation at home with their children – both girls and boys alike.

Here are some ideas for how all parents can help erase period stigma.

Discuss periods openly with your children

The most basic action parents can take to remove period stigma is to talk openly and honestly about the topic. By openly discussing menstruation, we contribute to breaking the societal taboo around menstruation.

As a rough guide, schools cover periods and puberty when kids are in their last year of primary school (so aged 10/11). For many girls, this will be TOO LATE. 15% of girls don’t know what’s happening when they start their period – which is scary. If your daughter is eight, it would be worth starting the conversation.

It’s important to also talk to boys about changes girls experience in puberty. This will impart the message that periods are a neutral bodily process and nothing to make a big deal over. Ensure that your son understands that periods are not “gross”, and that they should never tease or shame girls for having periods.

Dads, learn more about menstruation

While moms may know a great deal about periods, not all dads do. It is important for dads to be aware of what is going on in their daughters’ lives, whether we’re talking school, friendships or health – and that includes periods.

Address period shaming with your child

Your child has the right to a safe, nurturing school environment that respects their dignity. If they are experiencing period shaming at school, it’s important you nip it in the bud immediately.

  1. Listen to your child openly and calmly: Focus on making them feel heard and supported, instead of trying to solve the problem. Make sure they know that it is not their fault.
  2. Talk to the teacher or school: You and your child do not have to face period shaming alone. Ask if your school has a period shaming policy or code of conduct.
  3. Be a support system: For your child, having a supportive parent is essential to dealing with the effects of period shaming. Make sure they know they can talk to you at any time and reassure them that things will get better.

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