by Robyn Jones – B.Sc. (Psych), Goonellabah, Australia
Do you remember your first period? I do. I was 11 and it was a very low-key affair.
I had some light bleeding that lasted a few days and then nothing again for about 6 months.
I recall feeling some confusion as to whether this was in fact the beginning of my menstrual cycle or not. I wasn’t aware at the time that you could have a period and then not have one for months afterwards.
I thought that once you started, it came every month after that. So I was left wondering and waiting.
At this time I could have really used some insight and support but it was not a topic that was widely discussed then. It’s like we all knew it was going to happen but no one spoke about it and there was no real preparation for it. It just turned up one day.
I am now 40 and obviously have had many, many menstrual cycles since, two pregnancies, and birthed two gorgeous girls.
My eldest daughter has just turned 8 and I have already begun to support her as she heads towards the transition from being a girl to blossoming into a woman.
Through my own development of being true to myself as a woman I am able to support her by having discussions and openly sharing about what it is to be a woman.
We have discussed things such as:
- Listening to our body – embracing the wisdom that our bodies have to offer us, as they are with us always, in everything we do. They are privy to how we live and how we treat ourselves, and are our best barometer for letting us know if there are any changes that we may need to make to support ourselves more deeply.
- Accepting ourselves for the women we naturally are – as women we come with some pretty amazing qualities, such as delicateness, sensitivity, grace, stillness, and more. Allowing ourselves to feel these and accept them makes us stronger and more steady in life, as we are not trying to be anything that we are not.
- Treating ourselves with love, care and respect – we all deserve to be deeply respected, cared for and loved. This starts with how we treat ourselves. Because the way we are with ourselves is the way we also allow others to be with us. So it is up to us to set the benchmark by respecting, caring and loving ourselves first.
We also talk about what periods are all about. Things like:
- How periods get a bad rap – this is unfortunate because a period is actually a gift that we are given monthly to cleanse and re-group, to stop and feel how we have been living as women during the previous month, to listen to what our bodies are saying through menstrual symptoms we may experience such as period pain, tender breasts, and fatigue. Our periods are a great time to take stock and make any changes that may support us more deeply as we head into a new monthly cycle. And with this deeper understanding of what a period is it can be a completely different experience for us. One that holds meaning and is a support for us in our every day life.
- Periods can be a time of celebration – leading up to and during our periods we are supported by our menstrual cycle to feel the stillness we all hold within to a much greater degree. As women, we can be extraordinary in our natural ability to remain steady, while all around us is anything but that, when we are in our stillness. Our period is a time when we can embrace our stillness to a greater degree and to celebrate this. Because to celebrate the stillness is to essentially celebrate ourselves as the women we naturally are.
- What happens physically – the mechanics of it all, which involves the whole cycle from ovulation to bleeding – so then why we physically bleed becomes a whole lot clearer.
I have also found that it is important we lead by example by the way we live as women, as this speaks louder than any conversations we may end up having, as our daughters notice how we are with ourselves – the way we feel and conduct ourselves through our menstrual cycle, and the way we celebrate and appreciate ourselves as women (or not).
So where else can we find support for our daughters that offers a way of deeply respecting, valuing and celebrating them as they prepare for their period, as there is so much they receive daily that is contrary to this?
One resource we can draw on is an amazing festival called The Girl to Woman Festival, which is held every January in Australia.
My daughter and I attended the last one – and it is well worth a visit – as it is a festival completely dedicated to supporting girls, young women, their families, and the wider community through this time of transition.
We found the workshops, discussion groups, and activities offered at the festival very supportive and real, as there are many challenges and concerns our daughters face in today’s world. And there was also plenty of opportunity to celebrate and appreciate them with a concert at the end of the day.
Supporting our daughters in preparation for their first period can be a time filled with positive experiences, which they can take with them into the rest of their life as a woman.
Our first period is a big deal and many of us have had the experience of this being swept under the carpet or treated as more of an inconvenience than a celebration.
Let’s turn this around for our daughters by offering them an opportunity to be fragile, open, delicate and honest through this time – with our full support and guidance.
What are some of the ways in which you feel you can support your daughter through this transition? Please SHARE in the comments below.
Original article published on the Mouths of Mums website on December 9, 2015.