Separating Your Societal Ideals from Your Personal Beliefs

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!

Signing off,

Tihara from the REDefine Team

Featured artwork by Sanvee Jatia

An Introduction to Puberty II: “All Aboard the Emotional Rollercoaster!”

“AAAAHHHH”  

What a feeling right? Expresses just about anything. You know what I’m talking about if you’ve experienced mood swings. You’re probably here because you’re now seeing it unfold in your child. If they go from happy to sleepy to mad to “I’m going to burst” in a span of two minutes, I need you to know this is normal. Being a 17-year-old myself, I understand that these new emotions are hard to manage. Your child is going to discover a whole new side of themselves, be it getting annoyed or frustrated by some specific behaviour or feeling attracted to others. The unfortunate part in all this is that there is a 50% chance that they will have to deal with the consequences — from fights with you to rejections from their crushes. So…what can you do as parents? 

Firstly, you should understand that the natural changes in our body cause these mood swings, and we all go through it, in some way or another. During puberty, we have sex hormones, or chemical messengers, called Progesterone and Estrogen (in females) and Testosterone (in males) running around our body. These hormones are responsible for physical changes like growth of pubic hair, acne and development of breasts. In the process of making these changes, natural imbalances in the hormones can affect our mood, causing rapid fluctuations we call mood swings. 

I’m no expert, just a fellow struggling teen, so all the things I recommend now are just what have worked for me and other people I’ve spoken to. I cannot speak from the perspective of a parent, so for a second, pretend I’m asking you to do all this as your daughter.

  1. Relax:

Multiple studies have shown that stress can heighten the emotions we feel, so it’s important that you tell your child to chill and be a little easier on themselves. School will only get tougher with time, but they need to make that clear distinction between healthy and toxic levels of stress. As personal advice from a senior, they shouldn’t lose their sleep or sanity over all these academic demands. Trust me, it’s not worth it. 

  1. Share feelings:

Ask them to express how they feel. This isn’t going to be easy all the time. Chances are you’ll be faced with a lot of hesitance from their side, but take that extra step to become their confidant. Maybe you could make the first step by sharing your feelings, it will only make puberty an easier rollercoaster for the both of you.

  1. Journal:

Recommend journaling their feelings. I know writing seems like a big task to some of you (I myself don’t enjoy writing) but tell them to make an effort to write those 4-5 lines, reflecting on their day. This will help them track their emotions and habits, and know themselves better. 

  1. Get moving:

Shh, my parents can’t see this! I can’t believe I’m actually recommending this — I’m the laziest person you’d probably ever meet! But seriously, get up. Get moving. 

If they enjoy working out, great!  But if they’re like me, just motivate them to do something that’ll get them on their feet. It’s dancing for me, but it could be something as simple as taking a walk around the house for them. It acts as a good break from the toxicity of our real world, while releasing happy hormones called endorphins. 

I’m going to remind you once again: THIS IS NORMAL. WE ALL GO THROUGH IT.

When your child is going through something like this, they need you to be understanding, so go speak to them!

Consider this advice to be a tighter seat belt on your emotional rollercoaster. It’s not going to make puberty easier, you’ll still have to sit through all those twists and turns with your child, but it’s going to hold you both tight, so that you don’t fly off your seats!

That’s all for now!

Until next week, 

Siya (from the REDefine Team)

Featured artwork by Anaanya Poddar