In cultures around the world, menarche (men-AR-kee), or the first menstruation, is a special time in a girl’s life. Signaling her entrance into adulthood, a girl’s first period is often seen as a rite of passage and worthy of celebration. In most western cultures, though we gladly engage in bridal showers, baby showers, birthday parties, baptism celebrations, and more, menarche usually goes quietly unnoticed. For some girls, rather than being a moment of pride and excitement, her first period is accompanied by embarrassment or trepidation.
As a mother myself, I’ve been giving more and more thought to how I want to convey this important life transition to my children. I don’t have a specific plan yet (plenty of time for that!), but I do know that I don’t want to let this moment pass for my daughters without acknowledgement. There are several reasons for this. I believe period positivity can be the beginning of body literacy, giving a girl both a healthy perspective on her body’s development and a sense of the preciousness of her femininity and sexuality. If our girls learn from day one that periods are a beautiful and functional part of how God designed them, they will be encouraged to be proactive in their healthcare, vocal about their questions and concerns, and better equipped to demand that their bodies be respected by others.
So celebrating the onset of menstruation, which will be a major part of a woman’s life for decades, is a worthy goal. But how to go about doing it?
Menarche rituals will look different for every family and every individual, so don’t constrain yourself to one set idea. Be creative. Ask friends, peruse forums, and explore a variety of options. Here are just a few ideas that I’ve come across:
As you consider what to use for your daughter (or niece, sister, granddaughter, goddaughter, etc), here are some general guidelines that may be helpful to keep in mind:
1. Stay girl centered
Resist the temptation to create the ritual that you would have wanted as a child. This needs to be about blessing her and her journey into womanhood, and not about you. Some girls might be excited about the idea of a special gathering of their closest friends, while others might be more private and want to keep the whole thing between the two of you. Ask her what she wants or needs! Involve her in the planning.
2. Set the tone, but follow her cues
Your daughter will be looking to you for guidance during this time. If you are awkward, fumbling or uncomfortable, she certainly will be too. Put on your game face, exude confidence and provide a steady, calming presence. If you show her with your body language and your words that periods truly are a beautiful, sacred part of our femininity, you’ll make an impression on her that she’ll carry with her into adulthood. Use this opportunity to share with her your own memories and experiences, cultivating an openness that helps her feel at ease sharing with you too.
3. Do your own soul searching.
How do you feel about periods? Do you carry a lot of shame or anxiety when it comes to menstruation, or remembering your own puberty? This would be a good time to processes some of your feelings on the matter, both for your own sake, but also to make sure you’re not projecting any baggage onto your daughter. You can pray, journal, or get together with a girlfriend and a deep cup of tea and get to the root of it!
If your daughter is open and interested, one wonderful supplement to your own menarche ritual might be to attend a class or workshop such as CAFE: Cycle Awareness and the Feminine Experience. This adds to the special, celebratory atmosphere of her development, and not only helps her to better understand her cycles, but will help you to learn about your own! Taking a class like this together forms a foundation for future conversations and can be very beneficial for your relationship. Being able to talk about your cycles together may lay the groundwork for being able to talk about tougher aspects of growing up in the years to come.