How someone experiences a rite of passage often impacts our lives more than we realize. The messages and gestures (or absence of them) from our family, friends, community and culture, will effect how we see and think of ourselves in our new role, or life stage.
A first period is a significant time in a young persons life, marking the beginning of the transition to womanhood. Many changes happen physically, spiritually, emotionally and socially. For many, the rite of passage of menarche was marked with little more than an introduction to supplies of pads, and a perhaps a talk about the changes happening on a physical level. However, traditionally most ancient cultures marked the rite of passage with and ritual and celebration.
How can you support your child to prepare for and celebrate their menarche?
PREPARING FOR MENARCHE – some suggestions
- Have more open discussions about periods and the menstrual cycle in your family ~ use positive language when talking about periods. This helps to create a shame free menstrual culture in your family.
- Find a book about the menstrual cycle and changes of puberty that resonates with you both and read it together. (see the Resources page of this website) Share your experiences of the menstrual cycle. For Dad’s who haven’t experienced periods, you can share a little about your journey of puberty.
- Read up on the stages of puberty and the signs that menarche may be getting closer (see ‘A Blessing not a curse’ by Jane Bennett)
- Look at the different options you can use for periods. Read reviews, talk about them, try some out. What’s most important, is you support your child to make the choices that best suit them. Tampons or menstrual cups aren’t for everyone, whereas others may find them the best option.
- Prepare a small bag/kit with some pads in it for your child to take with them when they go out. Periods come unexpectedly sometimes, and certainly the first one, is often a surprise. Even if its a few years away, its good to be prepared, and your child can help their friends out too if they are ever unprepared when their period arrives.
- Attend a program to learn more about the menstrual cycle and hear other’s stories of menstruation and menarche.
- Read Cycling to Grandmas house. A story filled with examples of how different cultures have celebrated menarche in the past. Ask your child if they would like to celebrate their menarche and if so how?
- Consider researching the maternal line or family lineage to discover how menarche was celebrated or marked by your ancestors.
- D A D S – consider attending a Father Celebrating Daughters workshop to help prepare you and understand better the menstrual cycle.
- Hand make a blanket, rug, heat pack (to keep warm and cosy) or medicine pouch (to carry herbs crystals or chocolate), or something else which she can during menstruation.
AT MENARCHE – Here are some suggestions
- Congratulations from both Mums and Dads are important.
- Always respect your child’s privacy and requests regarding who this information will be shared with. When menstruation and menarche has been openly and talked about, they are usually more comfortable and proud of this moment and it being acknowledged and celebrated.
- Ask your child if they would like to celebrate, or make some suggestions for things you could do to make the occasion, such as;
- Have a small gathering with special women in her life, share stories of menarche, delicious food, songs or other appropriate words.
- Gift her something special she can keep and wear/use; some jewellery, something more grown up
- Prepare a menarche gift box. Suggestions of what this can include are; heat pack/hot water bottle, chocolate or other treats, pads, a journal or other materials for creativity during menstruation, a book e.g. ‘Making pink lemonade’ or ‘Reaching for the moon’ (see booklist in resource section)
- Allow her a new privilege to reflect the maturing / responsibility of this new phase/rite of passage. For example getting ear pierced or reading more grown up chapter books or movie (as appropriate)
- Go away for the weekend together or an overnight trip somewhere that your child loves. Maybe camp out bush under the stars?
- Have a Family Dinner to mark the occasion
- Watch or read a series together. e.g. Anne of green gables
- Buy a box of chocolates (or other treat she likes) and share them as you talk and hang out together.
- Take the day off School! Run a bath so she can have a big long soak with bath salts or other relaxing and calming oils e.g. lavender or chamomile.
- Learn some songs which celebrate becoming a woman and the right of passage of menarche.
- Attend a workshop, e.g. Herbal remedies for menstruation, Moonsong or course about the Menstrual cycle.
What about D A D S
- Be heartfelt in what you offer!
- Congratulate your daughter. If she has something planned with her mum, you could wait a couple of weeks then perhaps do something with just the two of you. e.g. go out for a special dinner to a place of her choice (that you both like).
- Take her out for the day to an activity or place of her choice, something you will both enjoy (i.e. shopping might not be the thing!) Take time just to enjoy each others company without the distractions of work, family life or crowds.
- Give her a small gift from you. A bunch of flowers, some jewellery, or something small she can treasure.
- Get your kit together! Make sure you have some pads handy and let her know where they are, be it in the glove box, or at your work or in the house.
- Do some reading to better understand the menstrual cycle and what is going on for your daughter, physically, emotionally and spiritually. Find how you can be a support. Ask and listen to her about what she might need. Use positive language about the menstrual cycle.
- If in doubt have a conversation to discuss the possibilities. A celebration for menarche can happen a little later. If you are reading this, and your young person has already had their menarche, you can always do something retrospectively.