How are we talking about periods to the younger generation? This is an important topic. What young people learn about periods in school, can affect how they manage their periods as they grow up.
We spoke to Elizabeth Folarin, co-founder of Periodical Diary to find out more about periods in education. Periodical Diary run interactive workshops in primary and secondary schools.
Are young people getting enough information?
Elizabeth is an expert in this area and here she tells us all about how schools are managing ‘the period talk’ and where there’s room for improvement…
“I remember my first ‘period talk’ in school. ‘The egg is not fertilised by sperm the lining comes away and your period will begin’ said the super-hot science supply teacher.
I was 13 and couldn’t stop cringing, I literally wanted the ground to swallow me up! The rest of the science lesson became very factual and well, ‘sciencey’. I didn’t know what the teacher was talking about but apparently what he described was going on in my body at that very moment.
Truth is, I didn’t know how to handle my period
At 13 a period for me was debilitating cramps, a sore back and bouts of crying for no apparent reason. Every half hour I would double check that I was not leaking onto my clothes. I would usually end up stuffing tissue in my knickers because I had not packed enough sanitary products to last the whole school day.
Looking back, I realise that there was so much I didn’t know about periods. I felt that it was something that I could not mention out loud and so I just dealt with it in silence without asking questions.
There is a big learning gap in schools
When discussing this with my friend, and co-founder of Periodical Diary, Kaye we identified a key issue. We wondered if young people were receiving socioemotional and practical information on how to manage their period.
This encouraged us to do some research and we reached out to a few schools. One school informed us that they gave the ‘period talk’ in PSHE but due to ‘funding cuts’ they focused on the ‘science bit’. Another school stated that they were being led by the guidance of a television channel’s website!
Subsequent conversations with various schools, although anecdotal, highlighted that there’s a learning gap. There is a general lack of quality and depth about periods and the menstrual cycle.
We need to look beyond the biology
There is no denying that the biological aspect is very important. Young people need to know how hormones work during menstruation or pregnancy. There is, however, a gap in what schools are teaching young people about periods. Young people often don’t learn how hormones can impact mood, pain tolerance, and physical energy. These are important topics that need to be covered. These topics explain how the menstrual cycle affects the body and health.
Additionally, many schools state that periods should arrive every 28 days. Periods are often irregular in adolescents. The menstrual cycle can sometimes be as long as 38 days. If we fail to inform young people of this then they do not know how to identify what’s ‘normal’ for them.
We’re on a mission to make improvements
Periodical Diary are dedicated to improving this learning experience. We deliver workshops in schools and our findings have been eye-opening. Some of the young people we have worked with have believed all sorts of period myths and misunderstandings. Such as believing that they only had to change their pads once a day! Others have asked for advice on how to deal with period discomfort such as cramps, (aside from the typical advice of using a hot water bottle).
Questions such as these highlights an important issue. Although parents and carers are responsible for having these conversations at home, many young people feel more confident asking questions when in a school environment. If we can answer these questions and help young people understand their periods and how to manage them, then we are making a positive step forward. It’s crucial to fill these education gaps.
We wanted to get involved with the #TalkingPeriods campaign. We believe it’s instrumental to eradicating the period taboo. It also provides a platform to share knowledge and give support to those who need it the most.
Thanks to Elizabeth for writing this post for us and backing our #TalkingPeriods campaign. What are your thoughts on this topic? Drop us a comment below or tweet us (@totmorganic @periodicaldiary). If you have questions about your period and need answers get in touch with us today.