I am often asked what’s the best to start a discussion about sexual health with children, preteens, and teens. My response is to use everyday moments (ie watching a show, commuting, etc), make it developmentally appropriate, ask what peers know/are doing, and keep the conversation open. At our house, a recent family viewing of the movie Padman helped kickstart a great discussion with our boys ages 8 and 10.
Padman is a Bollywood movie and tells the real life story of an Indian man from a small village who pioneers creating a inexpensive sanitary pad for low income women to use during their menstrual cycles in India, and goes on to become a Time magazine “man of the year”. His own interest in the idea came from observing his wife using unhygienic rags every month because she couldn't afford to buy pads. In fact, many girls in developing countries are unable to attend school during their cycles because of lack of access to sanitary supplies and stigma.
Needless to say, our boys were NOT excited about watching it, initially. (They would much rather have watched Star Wars). Padman starts slow and has a few typically Bollywood singing and dancing numbers. Taking advantage of the subject matter, my husband and I paused the movie to ask if the boys knew what menstrual cycles were and why they were important.
Although they found the menstrual cycle chat a bit uncomfortable, our boys really perked up when the focus of the movie turned to inventing a low cost machine.
The movie does really give kids a sense of what women’s struggles are in other parts of the world, particularly with stigma and gender roles. In the end, the movie lent itself to a great discussion on the physiology of menstrual cycles, where babies come from, and the importance of innovation for social change. Our boys gave the movie two thumbs up. Would recommend watching Padman as a way to kickstart a discussion on sexual health and gender roles for kids ages 8+! Check out the film