As the puberty series comes to an end, we hope that we’ve been able to provide some comfort to you and your child during this confusing phase. Before concluding, there is one more topic that needs to be addressed. As your child begins their journey through puberty, they will be bombarded with a colossal amount of information from various external sources. We believe it is important for them to know how to ignore erroneous information.
First and foremost, let’s discuss the definition of societal ideals and personal beliefs. Societal ideals are the expectations that society and/or our communities enforce on us. On the other hand, our personal beliefs include, but are not limited to, our morals and cultural practices. The purpose of this article is to help you integrate the idea that personal beliefs take precedence over the norms of society into your talk.
Our society influences the way people think about menstruation and puberty. In India, people who menstruate are compelled to be ashamed of their cycle and all which is associated with it. We scarcely find people talking about this topic in public, and during the rare occasion that it is discussed, it is riddled with taboos and stigma. Menstruation is still used, by our society, as an opportunity to isolate those who menstruate. For instance, in India, 23,000,000 people leave school when they start their period. This can be due to the lack of access to sanitary products, or discouragement from family members. Which, in turn, prevents them from completing their education, hence hindering their ability to get good jobs in the future. Although this is more evident in rural India, it certainly isn’t absent in urban areas. Most shops still pack sanitary pads in black bags so that they can remain “hidden.” Similarly, most of us have experienced the embarrassment of taking a pad out in class. The reason that this is included in the series is to prevent your child from incorporating inaccurate information. Help them understand that menstruating isn’t a limitation and they shouldn’t give into information that says otherwise.
However, it isn’t just society that dictates our outlook on puberty and menstruation. Adolescents are exposed to a variety of other sources of information. The most obvious and arguably the most influential is social media. Although I agree that social media is a great platform to spread awareness, it is also a breeding ground for false information. Social media encourages the creation of unrealistic standards. I remember watching a video where a person discussed how productive and positive they are during their period. It made me feel guilty for sometimes being tired, moody, and unproductive on my period. I couldn’t watch that person’s videos without feeling this way and it made me feel even more guilty because I knew that my ambivalence and lethargy is completely normal. Moreover, adolescents tend to get a vast amount of information from magazines like Cosmopolitan. Although these magazines are great for entertainment, they shouldn’t be your child’s primary source of information. It is because these magazines often publish articles like “How to keep your Boyfriends Happy in a Relationship,” which may encourage harmful ideas about relationships and sex.
To prevent your child from internalising misleading ideas, it is vital to prepare them to filter information. In a day and age like today, it is impossible (and impractical) to completely isolate your child from the internet. A more practical approach is for you to encourage your child to speak to you during a period of crisis (which I assure you will happen often enough), or inform them of more accurate sources like Healthline or books like Just for Girls/ Just for Boys if they are younger.
Before we end the series, I would like to remind you that every child is different. Each one will handle these complicated situations the best way they know how to. Give them time to adjust to these changes and their new perspective on life.
We hope you enjoy reading the articles as much as we loved writing them!
Tihara from the REDefine Team
Featured artwork by Sanvee Jatia