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Menstrual Cycles- Letʻs Talk About It!

For many of us, when we recall the first time our period came, it was riddled with confusion, embarrassment, as well as some fear. Oftentimes, parents wait until their childʻs period has already come before they talk about it, leaving the menstruator with a lot of confusion. Why is this such a difficult conversation for many parents to have with their children? The stigma around our periods can make it uncomfortable for us to have early age conversations with our child. We carry around our own labels and then project them onto our child. So why all the stigma around our monthly cycle?

There are three ideas on why itʻs difficult for parents to talk about menstrual cycles:

  • We hold on to the stigmas about our periods for ourselves.

  • We donʻt know enough about our own bodies to talk about body changes with our child.

  • Menstruation is a sign that our bodies are ready for reproduction. Anatomically, our children are able to have children.

  • We hold on to the stigmas about our periods for ourselves.

When I think back to my first period, all I remember is dread, embarrassment, and shame. I got my first period in fifth grade at the age of nine. I had learned about puberty in school, which came from a factual, medical perspective. There was no compassion or celebration when talking about this bodily change. My parents didn't talk to me about it at all.

When my first period came, it was towards the end of the school day and all I felt was wet. Then panic set in and questions started swarming. What is happening? Is it leaking through? Can my classmates and teacher see anything? I ended running home, and sure enough, I saw blood. I quickly got cleaned up and luckily knew where my mom kept her menstrual supplies. I figured out how to put on a pad by reading the directions on the box. I didn't even tell my mom. When I finally told her late into the evening, she cried. That sense of embarrassment at school and even to communicate with my mother was so strong. I didn't want to or even know how to talk about it.

My story is not unique. All of us menstruators of my generation and generations before me have very similar stories. We werenʻt informed and that embarrassment sets in early. Many of us can recall boys in school making fun of girls on their period. We may have even had brothers at home who would tease us for being moody or disgusting because we were on our period. For some of us, these stigmas and feelings have stuck with us.

To combat our own stigmas and mindset around menstrual cycles, we have to make peace with our own cycle and feelings before we are able to change that narrative with our children. If we want our children to grow up celebrating their menstrual cycles then we must celebrate our own as well.

  • We donʻt know enough about our own bodies to talk about body changes with our child.

In all honesty despite a few anatomy lessons in school, I definitely didn't know enough about my own body. I was well into my twenties before I realized that the female body has three holes. How embarrassing is that!? Like I knew that, right? Maybe subconsciously? But I didn't really think about how my body is put together and what makes it work. I didn't think that a period meant my body was releasing something that it no longer needed or where it was even coming from. I just viewed it as an inconvenience, which goes back to our own stigmas.

I also share a story about a friend who had a partial hysterectomy. Her doctors removed her uterus but left her ovaries. I asked her the question, “what are your ovaries now attached to? Are they just floating around in your body?” We are two grown, highly educated women and we didn't know how things worked. We had to look it up. And still to this day, I have more questions.

This unknowing place is a block into how much and how well we communicate with children. If we donʻt know our bodies, itʻs difficult to explain what is happening to a growing child. What if they ask us questions we donʻt know? How are we going to know the right words to say? In my experience working with children and being a mommy, the best thing is admit that you donʻt have all the answers and itʻs okay to look them up together. You donʻt need to be an expert. You just need to establish open, honest, and non-judgmental conversation.

  • Menstruation is a sign that our bodies are ready for reproduction. Anatomically, our children are able to have children.

This is probably the hardest pill to swallow when raising a child. They are our babies and will forever in our minds remain our babies. Itʻs hard to see our children as sexual creatures. While they may be anatomically ready to have children at the age of nine or so, emotionally, financially, maybe even physically, they are not ready and should not be having children.

As parents, we want to protect our children and their innocence for as long as we can. This is a normal feeling as a parent. Sex and having babies is an adult thing so seeing our nine year oldʻs body change is often heartbreaking and filled with a lot of fear. It means we need to start thinking about them differently and helping them to see themselves differently as well.

Talking about reproduction and private body parts is not the same as condoning that our children start becoming sexually active, this is a huge misconception. Understand that if parents or a trusted family member do not explain these topics, more often our children will learn it from a friend or even worse...You Tube!

To help us make peace with these feelings, first, we need to acknowledge this discomfort. Call it by itʻs name. Then we must accept these feelings and the changes we are seeing in our children. It helps to talk to other trusted parents, friends, or professionals.

Instead of continuing these feelings and stigmas of shame, embarrassment, and inconvenience surrounding our menstrual cycles and basic body changes, we need to start normalizing the conversation in our homes and even professional settings. It also helps to start having these conversations early, before our children's bodies start to change. But donʻt feel like you missed the boat either. If your child is already of age, start talking about it today, right now even.

By teaching our children about their bodies, we empower them to advocate for themselves and their own space. Empower your child by explaining to them how the body works and what is normal and what is not, and that they should turn to you when they experience things that may be painful or just donʻt seem right. Empower them to treat their bodies as sacred vessels that need protection and who better to protect that sacredness than themselves. Once we realize and accept that our children are growing and changing, we can then engage them in communication and even setting expectations and ways they can protect themselves. Itʻs time to change this narrative for our future generations. Letʻs take it back and letʻs talk about it!

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