Helping your daughter with menstruation

Recently I was asked about helping our daughters navigate menstruation, so I’ve been collecting ideas.  I have lots to share with you!

 

Some of us are cycling ourselves.  That makes it a bit easier, because we get to model how to handle our supplies and self-care.  Not only that, because cycles tend to sync up, we can make a pretty good guess as to where our girls are in their cycles.

 

Some of us don’t have a uterus.  Or aren’t cycling anymore.  We don’t have our own bodies to prompt us and keep it top of mind.  That’s a hurdle, yes, but there’s still lots of ways we can be supportive.

 

Menstruation is a big and ongoing learning curve for our girls.  Which product, how long you can wear it, when to buy more, what to do when the flow doesn’t match the supplies you have on hand, managing stains…lots to learn.

 

But beyond those logistics, there’s an attitude and attunement with the body which is all new.  Ladies, we learn self-care and grit in a whole different way than our male counterparts.  I find it’s really easy to over-exert myself when I’m menstruating, and things go so much better when I’m more conscious of my energy during that week.

 

So, from basic management to more nuanced self-love, here are 10 simple suggestions for going beyond simply “managing” menstruation:

 

  1. Mamas, when your little ones go to the bathroom with you, let them know you’re menstruating and that it’s totally safe and healthy. You might also explain that it means your body is ready to have another baby, if you choose to, and that most people need more rest during this time.

 

  1. Trying a wide range of products ourselves is super helpful. Not only are we knowledgeable, able to make recommendations, but our daughters see us using reusable items like cloth pads, menstrual cups, and period pants.

 

  1. A no-shame approach to menstruation is quite a gift to your daughter. Keep your supplies where they can be easily accessed; don’t hide them away!  Let her explore them when she’s too young to use them, and explicitly teach her how when it’s time. (for further reading: the sex-ed lab practical)

 

  1. Give your daughter books that celebrate and explain menstruation…before she’s menstruating. [click here for my favorite children’s books]

 

  1. Create a gift basket full of supplies and other items to celebrate her first period.

 

  1. Some cultures throw a party! Celebrating her transition to womanhood is a beautiful idea.  Not all girls will want this to be a celebration of menarche per se, so check in with your daughter’s preferences.

 

  1. Give your daughter something symbolic to wear during her moon time. It could be a piece of moon-themed jewelry, a red pendant, or red earrings.  It could serve as a subtle non-verbal cue that she could use some extra alone time or down time or TLC during those days.  (a couple jewelry suggestions here)

 

  1. Mamas, track your cycle. Use a mandala and magnets on the fridge, or any other convenient place.  Here’s the one I use, and there are plenty of other designs – or make one yourself!  Your daughters’ cycles will be in sync with yours, so it will speak for you all.

 

  1. Simply using the mandala is helpful, and you can go a step further and fully chart your cycle, or show your daughter how to chart hers. Many tracking charts exist. though your daughter might prefer a cycle tracking app to a printout.  If she loves tracking, invite her to go deeper with a period journal.

 

  1. Join a Red Tent or women’s circle. Let your moon time be a time of female bonding and rest.  If there isn’t one local to you, consider starting your own!  (there’s a book on that here)

 

 

The last thing I want to teach my daughter is to push through and tolerate her body during menstruation.  There are too many messages in our society to be disembodied, and I feel like menstruation is a time specifically designed for us to go inward, to really feel and focus on our bodies.

 

I hope these suggestions are helpful.

 

In support of you,

 

Anya

 

P.S. For more, check out my interview with Jane Bennett on positive menstruation.  It’s one of the over 80 videos you’ll gain access to when you become a member.

 

 

 

 

 

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5 Comments. Leave new

  • This is a wonderful guide! Thank you. I really appreciate how positive your approach is. Someone gave me a book when my daughter was only eight years-old, and it supported our positive approach to periods. MY LITTLE RED BOOK edited by Rachel Kauder Nalebuff is filled with stories about first periods, including a wide variety of experiences. All the stories were helpful and interesting. Some were even hilarious and a few were difficult. All were relatable. When we finished reading that book, my daughter said, “I am ready for anything now!” While I believe our ongoing conversations and positive attitude toward menstruation were helpful, I think the book made a huge difference for our daughter and our two boys. The stories expanded their understanding of the specifics and the reality in a positive, part-of-life way. Six years later, our daughter was clearly ready and capable of using tampons with her first period on her own because she had been exposed to the experiences of friends, some of our family friends and women and girls who told their stories in MY LITTLE RED BOOK.

    Reply
  • So my little boy aged 4 walked in on me while I was in the bathroom cleaning up during a very bloody miscarriage. At that time I tried to explain to him what was going on and perhaps I shouldn’t have. I have been trying the approach of your suggestion #1 but I actually find it difficult to explain to him during menstruation that this is normal because he usually starts asking too many questions relating to the miscarriage, and it’s painful for me to go there. So I have questions:
    a) is your suggestion #1 applicable for boys, too?
    b) What kind of language should I use for a four year old?
    c) Is 4 too old to let him follow me into the bathroom (not that I can see how I would stop him, unless I lock the door… I wish I had done that with the mc though)?
    d) Any other advice for this specific situation?

    Reply
    • Oh, Minet, I’m sorry this is so hard. I’ve had the experience too: my daughter has seen me menstruate and miscarry (luckily in that order). Yes, I’d do the same with a little boy. I say that Mama’s body is showing that it’s ready to have another baby, if I want to. I say that menstruating can be uncomfortable, but it’s also normal and healthy. I say that while I can choose when I go pee and poop, the menstrual fluid comes from a different place and through a different opening, and I can’t hold it in like I do with my pee, so I need a “little diaper” (pad). I think it’s fine that you let your son into the bathroom with you, and I don’t know how he’d react to the door being locked – could be more traumatic for some kids, I imagine. It sounds to me like you have some more grieving to do around the miscarriage (I know I did) so that you can answer your son’s questions simply and truthfully. Here’s a bit more about my experience: https://www.talkingaboutsex.com/why-i-hate-the-term-miscarriage/ I wrote that a few weeks before the actual miscarriage took place. My daughter didn’t have too many questions. We just said that the baby had visited us for a while and then stopped growing, and now my body was menstruating to get ready to try again. Does that help?

      Reply
  • Appreciate you so much! thanks for this! My kiddo is 16 and the period underwear will be a great resource.

    Reply

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