The first time a girl menstruates is perhaps the most significant and powerful stage in her life. The name menarche comes from the Greek words ‘moon’ and ‘beginning’. Often in life navigating big life-changing transitions are difficult because they mark the end of an era as well as the start of something new and unknown.
Perhaps more than ever, women are seeking to make the menarche transition more of a celebration for their daughters. Round the world there is a rising movement of women dedicated to supporting girls and woman. In their capable and caring hands Red Tents and women’s groups are springing up in towns and villages all over the world, the feminine process is respected and menarche is honoured! The girls of today are the women of tomorrow, and the women of today are the new matriarchs rising!
There are many ways we can support our daughters through the messages we give them by openly communicating about body image, menstruation and sexuality. We can encourage them, honour them, acknowledge them, reassure them, and give them information as they start their journey of self discovery. It’s normal to feel lost and confused at the beginning, to feel unsure of what ‘being a woman’ means, I look back at my childhood and I didn’t want to grow into being a woman at all!
Your general attitude to what ‘being a woman’ means and the way you carry yourself through the cycle is crucial; these aspects of life can simply be taught to your daughter by you practicing them yourself. Your way of carrying yourself is going to be their way. Explaining that there is an important time of your cycle (menstruation), and that important healing can be done during that time, and teaching them to respect that in you, (also encouraging them to look forward to that time) can all be hugely positive.
Ask yourself some questions What do you feel is the role of women? It is just taking care of everyone else? What about yourself? And your experience of menarche – what was it like? How was it explained to you and by who? Was it a positive experience? Did you get freebies from pad companies? Do you agree with that?
The value of her body
Celebrate the value and sacredness of her body. She shares something amazing with all the other women of the world – she has the moon in her womb! I know we need to learn how to fall in love with all the aspects of our cycles; sadly we are not taught what is great about them so it can take some effort! But just by explaining that she has an inbuilt cyclic sequence that serves as a ‘navigational system’ for making optimal decisions in health, business, relationships, love and sexual expression, that all parts of the cycle have their gifts as well as their perceived downsides… That’s pretty cool news to any girl.
Pay attention to the needs of the body
Encourage her to honour and respect her body, not because of beauty or image, but because it s a miraculous and incredible companion that will live with her for the rest of her life. Eating a healthy balanced diet, going within when the body wants to go within and go without when the body wants to go without, choosing natural alternatives to the Pill, enjoying her body; those pleasures like steaming hot baths, dancing, the sensuality of the body, eating. Why should such pleasures of the senses be seen as guilty in our society?!
Give her your knowledge
Speak to her about how our bodies work, the rhythm of the menstrual cycle, how this affects us emotionally. She will be changing emotional and physically every day of her life until her menopause, and because women are cyclic; this is absolutely normal! Embracing all of who she is, embracing the myriad, rainbow of ways of possibility of being. Acknowledging the different ‘inner women’ through the cycle. Buy her a beautiful set of re-usable cloth pads, and when she is a little older a menstrual cup. Educate her about the environmental impact of menstruation so she can make an informed choice about the products she chooses.
Help her dispel social conditioning! There is a lot of pressure for young women trying to be popular at school, explain to her about the distorted sense of image and beauty by the mass media. Speak to her about blood! Blood isn’t smelly or dirty or something to hide. Help your daughter see that these old outdated messages (like women somehow have to compete with each other, be jealous, fight over men etc) are old and serve no purpose in her life. Instead encourage her to share and be like sisters with her friends who are all experiencing the same cyclic body! We are all special and unique with our own strengths and weaknesses. Encourage her to be proud to be a girl, proud of her moon-time, celebrate it every month. Oh and another thing, competing with men to join their world is not empowering! She can do anything she puts her mind to, there are roles for her to have to play in life…
Join a red tent circle (or create your own!) Go together, or start a girls group a girl’s red tent, encourage your daughters friends to get together for their own red tent and talk about girls issues, encourage them to share with each other what they know – what magazines they have read, their menarche experiences, what is their relationship with their mum, their relationship with their bodies, what they agree with and what they disagree with. Have a menarche ceremony to honour the young woman who could become a mother. Do it any way she wishes!
If you don’t feel sure
Reach for information online, attend a red tent, watch films like ‘The Moon Inside You’, or ‘Things We Don’t Talk About’ with your daughter, get excited about her moon-time, speak to her about what she would like to happen when the time comes. Finally, sign up to the next annual DeAnna L’am Red Tent Summit and listen to all the amazing speakers out there, encourage your daughters to do the same.
For more information advice and tips about how we can help our young women at menarche, click here.
This page was created by compiling my notes of some of the ideas and thoughts of Indigo Bacal, Elena Sofia Zambrano, Rachael Hertogs, Brooke Medicine Eagle, Suzanne McQueen, red tent Gwynedd and DeAnna L’am. I would like to extend my thanks to them for sharing their knowledge in the incredible videos in DeAnna L’am’s red tent series, 2015.