Rashida knew about periods. She knew she’d get one soon. It was a strange thing to think about. Nobody had spoken to her about blood and bleeding, breasts, and body hair. Not even her mom, who seemed to think the school would cover all that.
Rashida looked down to wipe one Monday, and there it was. Red. Toilets have a way of making things feel incredibly routine, lonely, and unceremonious. And so it was. She waited until after dinner when her dad and little sister had left the room. In her head, she repeated her news as a way to build up the courage to tell her mom she’d irreversibly changed.
She breathed deeply: “I got my period today.”
Her mom stood up and left the dim room. Rashida was alone with her new blood again. Her mom returned, silently passed her a pack of sanitary pads. They were done. The girl had all she needed. Except she didn’t.
Where Potentials Exist
Pre-teen is a tricky time of teetering. Grown girls are about to become young women, lines transform into curves, and bodies turn cyclical. Overnight, body hair changes from meaningless to meaningful.
If ever there’s a time to tightly hold your daughter’s hand and offer her all the wisdom of one who’s gone before, it’s at this crucial apex where potentials exist. She has equal potential to leap into a future-self timeline of self-loathing, confusion, and isolation or one of fierce self-knowledge, inner power access, and freedom.
Two of the reasons this abyss-sized divergence in potentials exists are omittance and loss. In the West, the relevance, meaning, and value of feminine life changes and transitions have been removed. Rather than celebrate the gates of menarche, menopause, and the like, we just get on with it.
We have lost critical opportunities to guide, tend and educate each other in the ways of being a woman. What we’re left with instead is largely self-guided digestion of nutrient-poor and harmful patriarchal narratives about who we should be and what we mean to others.
Dangerous. Also, incredibly depressing. Literally. We should not be surprised at the rate of teen depression and anxiety when the social narrative is one of deeply pressing ourselves into tiny spaces so we don’t get in the way.
The Return of Ritual 101
There are certain points in your girl’s life where you have the choice to use your wisdom to guide her deeper into herself or leave her to navigate an unsupportive societal narrative of whatever she’s experiencing.
This is where ritual comes in. Not routine. That’s different. Routine is the daily communing and regular rhythm of your family. It’s necessary, but it’s the background. Ritual stands out, marks the rare, and allows its potency. It says: This is important, and we see you.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. You don’t have to believe in anything to bring ritual into your family. Symbols are symbols because of shared meaning. Create your own symbols with your girl.
2. You don’t need a certificate from Hogwarts to ritualize important events in your girl’s life. You can make it up by doing what feels authentic and aligned for you and her. What’s important is that you create a container that’s different from the day-to-day; you share your past experience and offer an environment where your daughter is celebrated, empowered, and feels excited to be herself.
3. Embrace the power of storytelling. The more a girl knows about her mother’s life and the matriarchs in her lineage, the more empowered she is. While it may not always be easy to share your experiences, and they certainly won’t always be positive, they allow your daughter the opportunity to make informed choices.
You hold immense power to clear the way for your daughter so that she can evolve up rather than re-live your struggles. Offer her rituals to stay close to her inner compass, letting her grow up confident. She knows what’s best for her and wastes no time doubting herself or listening to patriarchy shouting out wrong directions to places it’s never been and actually doesn’t want her to go.
How To Celebrate Your Girl’s First Period
“All indigenous people on earth provide their young people with specific rites of passage to signify their change in status from child to young adult.” – Dr. Christiane Northrup
Start with why. Get clear on why you want to create a special occasion for your girl. Is it because you want her to have a different first-period experience from your own? Is it purely celebratory, or do you want it to be empowering and educational too?
- Knowing our intentions and purpose is essential because if we want this to be purely about our daughter, we need to ensure we’re not letting our personal taboos, shame, or blind spots get in the way.
- Spend some time clarifying where you stand on the subjects of periods, womanhood, rituals, and the like. Write down ways your parents and grandparents helped and hindered you as a young girl. What familial beliefs and actions do you want to pass on, which end with you?
- Know your daughter. Communicate with your daughter about the changes she can expect. Explain the how and why behind your wanting to mark the occasion of her first period.
If you haven’t discussed periods, bodies, sex, and the like before, it may take some time to build rapport. That’s okay. Start small. Ensure your girl understands the significance, and then see where she stands in terms of celebration and recognition. The type of ritual you choose must resonate with her. Don’t force her to have a sharing circle with 10 friends if she’d be more comfortable reading through a special box of well-wishes privately with you.
Share Your Journey:
Do not underestimate the healing power of vulnerably sharing your pivotal life experiences with your daughter. This allows her to better understand certain aspects of herself, but it empowers her to realize that she doesn’t have to carry what you carried. She’s allowed to and very capable of re-writing the family script and doing things her way.
Create the Ritual:
Don’t worry about getting it wrong. The goal here is to initiate your daughter into womanhood using:
- Practical education about her body, hormones, and sexuality
- Storytelling from your own life and lending from others’
- Marking the occasion with symbolism and meaningful activities
You don’t have to wait for her first cycle. You can have a group gathering of young girls aged 11-12 and explore this rite of passage in a collective. Or you can wait until the day her period arrives and make it an occasion. If your girl’s already had her period for a while, you can still create a meaningful celebration. It’s never too late.
Activities and settings:
You know your girl’s likes and predispositions. Lean on them. If she loves the forest, take her to a cabin. If she’s obsessed with roses, milkshakes, and the color green, incorporate these elements.
It’s up to you to choose how and how much symbolism to use. You could offer a crown or a new dress as a way to mark the shift. She could literally walk over a bridge. You could build an altar at home, one that represents this new chapter and all the women in her life who’ve gone before.
For further inspiration and guidance, here are ideas by Christiane Northrup, M.D.
Think of the first-period ritual as a bridge. You’re building the bridge so your daughter can cross from girl to young maiden with dignity, confidence, and a solid foundation. How ornate the bridge is, is less important than it being specifically designed for your unique girl.
Written by Roxana Bouwer
Top photo by Karolina Grabowska from Pexels
Second photo by Elina Sazonova