I want to turn the tables on the traditional puberty and period talk. I want moms to reconsider this idea, because I want their daughters to view the experience in a more positive light. As someone who has taught puberty classes for over 25 years, I’ve always tried to put a positive spin on the entire puberty experience. Resistance has always been there, but I’ve persevered.
I realize for many the concept of celebrating puberty and one’s period might be a new and challenging concept. Could this be due to the fact it’s had a shame-based view for generations? I think so.
I believe now is the perfect time to change our mindset about how girls and women view puberty, periods and their bodies in general.
The reality is that all girls go through puberty, and eventually they get their periods. I invite all mothers to help their daughters make this transition with a positive attitude. Why is it so important? When young women enter this stage, how they view their physical and emotional changes will impact their self-esteem and body image for the rest of their lives.
What do I mean when I say celebrate? Many countries have traditions that celebrate the onset of menses. In South India, girls are celebrated with a ritual bath, dressed in fine traditional clothing and showered with blessings and gifts. In Italy, they’re be addressed “signorina,” which means “miss” or “young lady.” Italian girls’ families and relatives are all given the good news of their first period, and celebration ensues. In Iceland, girls get a very special cake, red and white, symbolizing their milestone in life. That’s what celebration looks like.
Here … not so much. If and when anything is said, a girl might get a book, a class, or mom might sit down and talk about the changes that will be happening to her. But, will any of those experiences include a discussion about how to celebrate this important rite of passage? Usually not.
As a sexual health educator, I haven’t seen much celebrating over getting one’s period. In reality, quite the opposite. Getting one’s period in our country often comes with fear, anxiety and shame over the unknown, along with generations of negative beliefs and attitudes.
At the end of my puberty classes, I explain that celebrating this transition is very important, and after they all stop laughing, I ask them how it might be important to celebrate this amazing time in their lives — a rite of passage. Usually I’ve stumped both girls and mothers.
I’ve had girls come up with going shopping for period products, others have jumped in with getting red velvet cupcakes; the best was one girl looking at her mom and saying they should go to Maui. I applauded her for her creativity and just added to be careful if they went out for a meal and had a server come to their table singing: “Happy period to you. Happy period to you.” The class all laughed, and I said that humor was a must, along with celebration.
I always ask girls how they feel about puberty after taking my classes. One girl said that even though she was still having some concerns, she was glad to have a class that made her feel better about being a girl and excited about the prospect of creating something cool to celebrate. A mom once shared that all she’d gotten as a child was the negative, which made her feel fearful and worried, and the idea of creating a celebration made her feel more positive about being a woman and sharing the process with her daughter.
The term celebration means “a time or special event in honor of something or a transition.” Think of all the events in our lives we celebrate: a baby’s first step, graduations, learning to ride a bike, losing one’s first tooth … I believe, especially for girls, finding a way to celebrate this rite of passage will set the stage for fully embracing not only puberty but what makes being a woman so amazing.
Here are some celebration ideas. (Can you come up with some of your own?)
- Period party, with red velvet cake
- Shopping for supplies for a Period Kit (Mom, put a special note in the kit)
- Shopping for period underwear
- Mani/Pedi – with red nail polish
- Bring home a bunch of red balloons
- Make up a special period song
- Have a special ceremony
- Purchase the journal “Just Between Us”
- Go out to dinner
- Take a mother/daughter puberty class
- Go to Maui!
Whatever you and your daughter pick, you’ll be making new memories that will have a positive impact now and in the future. Wouldn’t it be wonderful for women to truly embrace every aspect of themselves in celebration of how we’ve been created?