Yesterday was a big day for my daughter, as she turned 10. This is such a milestone for her and me, now that she’s in double figures. The hormones are already awakening in her, with moods that can be a bit erratic and I can see that it won’t be long before puberty comes knocking at our door. Don’t be fooled into thinking that a monthly hormone cycle won’t start long before menstruation starts. I am excited to see what kind of woman she will become in the years ahead, but also a very teensy bit sad too as she moves on from being a small child to a teenager.
Of course we all have a story to tell as to how we entered puberty, and for us girls, how and when we started our periods. It has only been relatively recently that girls blossoming into womanhood has been openly celebrated and cherished, though still only by a relatively small handful. This is a vitally important time for girls and will affect their experience of being a woman for the rest of their lives. We now have some amazing women around the world that run workshops about getting in touch with our menstrual cycle and women that organise celebration days for girls due to start their periods and then of course there is ‘The Red Tent’, a community menstrual hut for women to retreat to where they can rest, sleep, eat simple nourishing foods and just have time to be with themselves along with other women at this time of their cycle.
By and large most girls can guess they’re going to start their periods around the age of 12, but it can also be as early as 8 or as late as 15. This is dependent on all sorts of lifestyle factors; with the major one being diet. As parents we have a big responsibility to make this experience really empowering for our girls and not one to be feared. Of course as mothers, our experience of our own monthly cycle will affect how we communicate what periods are all about and their meaning. There was nothing much to report about the start of menstruation for me at the relatively older age of 14. It was neither celebrated nor dreaded, though I have to say there was some relief at actually starting them. I can’t recall any discussion around their meaning and anything I learnt was from teenage magazines or whispers in the school playground.
A positively presented message around periods has a profound impact on a girl’s body image, her emotional health and her whole menstrual experience. It can also further impact their sexual experiences later on and their whole approach to relationships and fertility awareness. It is important to discuss that starting periods is an intrinsic part of female sexuality and should be celebrated (and I don’t mean a huge party, though this might suit some). I have already discussed with my daughter what she’d like to do. If it happens to be a school day, she won’t be going, and she wants to celebrate it in a quiet way, just with me. It will be a day we will treasure together.
Like all parents the rate at which our children grow and develop surprises us as the years seem to fly by, but an early, open hearted approach to both boys and girls in the pre-teen stage really does set them up for a smooth transition into becoming a balanced teenager and adult. A good diet with the right balance of oils and minerals (which I have started to focus on for my daughter) will also be an enormous help. Though a change in moods and emotions is inevitable it can be exaggerated by an imbalance in the body’s biochemistry. The need for essential fatty acids and certain minerals to help their bodies’ develop beautifully through puberty is paramount and with this correct nutritional balance moods, skin problems and addictions are less likely to occur in their teenage years.
I have always had a very open relationship with both my daughter and my son around my monthly cycle and they frequently know when I am having my period. Despite what the sanitary and tampon adverts will tell you, it is not best to be out roller-skating, sailing or rock climbing when you have your period, (but then they still use blue liquid to demonstrate absorption on their products – go figure!).
It is a time to become a little more introverted and selfish and to really take time to self-nurture. It’s pretty obvious when we’re not paying attention to our body, when it needs this downtime, as this is when we are most likely to get crabby and short tempered. Of course being a mum and business owner means I can’t be completely selfish and have a full on duvet day. I do however make my husband aware when its coming up to my period and he knows that I keep life a little more low key where I can at this time. Simply cut back where you can. Don’t organize play dates to have loads of kids round or a big shopping trip, don’t work late or plan a circuit training session at the gym. You’ll pay for it later if you do with greater fatigue kicking in for the rest of your monthly cycle.
Conversely, when we ovulate, this is a time for really giving. Our energy and creativity are at their height as is our sensuality. These are times when I know I can juggle a hundred things at once without batting an eyelid. I can’t do enough for my husband and kids and feel inspired to take on new projects and a real sense that I am able to move my own needs down the list for a few days without consequence to my wellbeing.
Alexandra Pope (author and speaker) runs enlightening workshops around getting in touch with what our cycle means for us, and I have certainly noticed changes in my cycle just simply from becoming more aware. Our menstrual cycle has 4 phases, much like the seasons of the year. Winter is the time we menstruate, where we naturally slow down and conserve our energy. Then we move into spring time our pre-ovulation phase. A gentle awakening takes place and then we’re in to full summer, our time of ovulation. Then we move into autumn, our pre-menstrual time where once again we start to slow down.
Yes, when we start menstruating it does make us more vulnerable, but that is not a weakness. We are not robots. As women our menstrual cycle is a gift, a tool for recognizing our attention to our self care. It is a stress sensitive system that can signal when life is out of balance, so listen to yours wisely.
If you feel you need help with balancing your menstrual cycle or just feel that your health is out of balance then here is a link to the form where you can contact me:
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