Puberty. We all survived it, grew up and got on with our lives, putting those awkward years behind us. For many of us, periods were a major event in this puberty journey, and one that was often an isolating, sometimes frightening, experience.
If you have a child who is approaching puberty and periods you might be wondering how best to navigate the times ahead. Is it really possible for their experience to be different from ours?
Can we really change the story? YES, we can!
This is the first article of a three part series looking at how we can prepare ourselves and our children to traverse the bumpy terrain of puberty and starting periods. So let’s dive in with the most important bit – preparing ourselves, because this is ground zero when it comes to supporting our kids.
Step One: Look back – how was your experience?
Everyone has their own memories and beliefs laid down from those early years. How was puberty and starting periods for you? Were you held and supported? Or were you alone and afraid? What beliefs about your body, and about your menstrual cycle, do you hold from that time?
I meet many women who are convinced that their child will have a terrible time with their periods because their own memories are so negative, but this absolutely doesn’t have to be the case. What experience would you have liked?
By looking back at our own experience we can start to work out what we might like to do for our own children. And, crucially, by looking back we get clearer on any baggage we are still carrying from that time, so we can start to figure out how not to pass it on to the next generation.
- Journal about how it was for you, and what you’d like to be different this time round
- Seek out extra support if your experience was traumatic, what do you need to heal?
- Check out our new Mothering your daughter through Menarche self study course
Step Two: Look forward – educate and equip yourself
What support would you like to give your children as they approach puberty? Are they already in it, or is there plenty of time to prepare? It’s important to start talking with kids about their bodies (using the correct terms) as young as possible, and books are a great way to get the conversation going for all ages.
If you are feeling like you don’t know where to start, try the suggestions below. Once you’ve read some books, reminded yourself of how it all works and made a plan you’ll feel much calmer and more prepared. Just like talking to your kids about sex, talking about periods can feel like it carries a big charge and is something you have to get perfect first time.
In reality it’s about lots and lots of little conversations and what you model yourself. Educate yourself, get support, take a deep breath and just get going!
- Buy or borrow books & read them first yourself, get familiar with them, brush up on your knowledge of puberty, how periods work and what all the different parts of the body do as they mature.
- If you find talking about genitals and periods embarrassing, practice with a friend! Get used to saying words like vulva and vagina without going red or mumbling, so when you speak with your kids you don’t pass on any messages that they’re embarrassing or shameful parts of the body.
- Think about what you might like to do when your daughter starts her periods, do you want to give her anything? Do anything special? Give yourself plenty of time to prepare so you don’t get caught out
Step Three: Get support
Parenting adolescence is not easy. It brings up all our own memories and big feelings from that time and it can be hard to separate out our own experience from our children’s. Talking it all through, warts and all, with someone you trust is a hugely helpful practice.
To support our children we need to look after ourselves, so we can come to them present and able to hear where they really are. And when we don’t, or can’t (because life happens, right?) we just pick ourselves back up, dust ourselves down, give ourselves a hug and try again.
- Talk to trusted friends about your experience and ask them about theirs
- Set up a regular gathering where you can talk with other mums parenting children going through puberty, it can be really informal or more structured, take chocolate!
- Check out our new Mothering Your Daughter Through Menarche course.
Ultimately, our children will go through puberty in their own sweet way. Some will sail through and some will find it excruciating. As their parents we can be their support team but they’ll also be influenced by all the messages they hear around them.
Preparing yourself early and being the first person to speak with them about all this stuff makes it more likely they’ll listen to you, so get in early! But if they’re already well into it and you’re feeling like a rabbit in the headlights, don’t worry, it’s never too late to start.
We’re thrilled to share that we have a new Red School Mothering Your Daughter Through Menarche online course! Dive deeper into preparing yourself and your child for menarche, with support and lots of practical advice and resources so you don’t have to do it alone. You may also be interested in our other articles in this series: Three Ways To Prepare Yourself For Your Child’s First Period (Part 2) and How To Support Your Child With Their First Period And Beyond.