when you’re becoming conscious of your menstrual cycle, and how much it influences you, and how much healing there is possible when we reclaim our cycle, it’s entirely normal to want a better experience for your child when they start their periods.
you don’t want her to have to wait until she’s this age to figure it all out piece by piece, and you hope she doesn’t feel disconnected, distrusting or even disgusted by her body and cycle.
but since you weren’t given much support or empowering information when you had your menarche (first period), you’re at a loss at to how to really talk to your child in advance, so she is supported, prepared and confident in advance, and never has to struggle or suffer alone.
so to support you to have conversations with your child at any age, i’ve written this blog post here with age-appropriate tips for her, and for you as a parent.
you’ll find support, tips and advice for young children, tweens and pre-pubescent children, through to pubescent children and teens.
i hope this helps you turn what’s been traditionally uncomfortable conversations into beautiful moments of bonding, and learning and healing for yourself as well as your child.
Hi, I’m Charlotte Pointeaux, a mother of three daughters, Internationally award-winning Menstrual Cycle Coach, Host of Wild Flow Podcast and Founder of First Moon Circle School which provides empowering menstrual education and a rite of passage honouring for girls aged 9-12.
If you’d love to share what you now know with your child or any other child for that matter, but aren’t sure of when or how to start, I’d love to give you some ideas to help you do that confidently in a way that feels empowering, age-appropriate, and easy for you and your child at each stage.
Read on or listen instead!
teaching your young children about periods
It is much more effective and empowering to begin sharing menstrual cycle education with children as early as possible, so we can normalise menstruation as a natural and healthy bodily function from the beginning. Small children love to follow mum to the bathroom to watch and learn what we’re doing there so let’s take advantage of their beautiful curiosity. If you find yourself closing the door on your young child when you have period to avoid their questions and your own discomfort, consider taking a breath, letting your child in, and allowing them to see you caring for yourself and your menstrual blood. There is no need to hide or feel shame, so if any strong feelings come up for you, ask yourself why, and work out what the root of it is. These feelings show you where you have work to do in embracing your own body and role-modelling that, so your child can learn to do the same.
Small children watch their mothers with awe and fascination, curious about why there is blood coming from your body and what it means. They might ask whether if it’s red poo or wee, if they don’t realise it’s blood, and if they do, they might ask why there is blood there: is it because you have a cut or are in pain? This is a wonderful chance to explain that menstrual blood is not like the blood flow that comes from a wound: instead, it’s magickal life-giving blood that comes from your womb where babies grow. The blood flows from your womb on the inside, out through your vagina and that this blood is there because your body has been practicing making a nest which a baby would grow safely inside of if you were pregnant, but because you are not right now, your womb packs down the nest each month and cleans it out ready to start again next month.
This nest analogy is a really helpful way of explaining the purpose of periods to toddlers, pre-schoolers and young school children. Your child might have more questions from this point or ask you the same question again next time they see your period blood, and that’s ok. Let them ask, provide the same answer, check if they understood and if they have any further questions. Over time this will sink in and become ‘old news’, so normal to see and talk about. My three daughters have heard me explain this to them many times over the years from when they were about one upwards, and my now 8-year-old feels like she understands why we have periods through this nest analogy and knows she will have them too when she is older, and that its nothing to be afraid of. I think it’s so important to share this with children of all genders and ages so we can normalise menstruation early on for all, not just for our daughters, but for the collective, for the world.
My children also like to know about my choice of period products which are mostly period underwear, which I explain are a bit like wearing nappies to catch the blood, because they know what nappies are! You might let your child see you inserting a tampon or moon cup, or using pads, and simply sharing that they’re there to catch your blood, and demonstrating where they sit in or on your body.
My children have also really loved helping me return my menstrual blood to the earth. After I have soaked my period underwear in a tub of cold water for a while, the blood washes out into the water and I can pour this water onto plants, flowers and trees in my garden. As nature’s first fertiliser, women would stand in the fields and free-bleed onto the crops to help them grow, so we can use menstrual blood to feed our plants too. My children get to take it in turn choosing with plant they want to feed, and they help me pour the water onto that plant. My roses especially love my blood! You can either dilute your blood or pour it from a menstrual cup directly, onto both indoor and outdoor plants.
Besides managing my blood, I love to let my children know that since I am bleeding, it’s time for me to have a rest because my body is working beautifully for me, and I need to have some quiet, slower time. My children know this means that I am going to take a nap if I need to, that they too are invited to have a slower day, and they are encouraged to be more sensitive to my needs for alone time in my bedroom. They sometimes offer to make me a cup of tea, or ask their dad to make one for me, and usually I am afforded space to be with myself which feels so lovely at this time of my cycle. I think this is such a simple but powerful role modelling to give to children so they can appreciate the value of rest, and of the wisdom of their bodies too, especially during menstruation.
At this age it’s all about normalising menstruation by making it visible, positive, and a time of self-care and rest. This foundational knowledge can be shared with children of any age, it is never too soon nor too late.
for pre-pubescent children
As children get closer to puberty, they should learn about the changes they can expect to notice in themselves and their bodies as puberty begins. You can teach your child that they will not just change physically in their size, shape, and appearance, but their brains will change too so they see the world and themselves differently, and can experience newer, bigger and deeper feelings for people than before too. Teaching your child about the stages of puberty can empower them to work out where they’re at on their journey towards having their first bleed.
Puberty is a process that takes 6 years to complete and can start from around age 8 onwards. It begins with the ovaries enlarging which begins the production of the hormone oestrogen in the body. At this point, external changes are invisible, but change is happening within! After a period of time, breast buds will begin to develop as the first external sign of puberty. From there, pubic and armpit hair will grow, leg hairs will thicken, and your child will gain some weight which is much needed to help them grow taller and curvier. Breasts will continue to grow and change shape over time.
After about 2-3 years from breast budding, and about 6 months or so before your child has their first period, their body will start making cervical fluid or ‘discharge’ which is the white fluid that the cervix makes across the menstrual cycle, which changes consistency in response to hormonal changes. It’s so important to share with children what cervical fluid is because many children do not know what it is, having only heard about menstrual blood, and so they question if there is something wrong or unclean with their body when they start noticing their cervical fluid. Actually, cervical fluid is a wondrous substance with many purposes linked to fertility and cleansing the vagina. Teaching girls to look out for fertile cervical fluid helps them know if and when they might start ovulating, because two weeks after successful ovulation comes their period. If your child learns to read their cervical fluid they are well equipped to not feel worried about being ‘caught out’ by their period at school, for example.
Cervical fluid changes at ovulation from dry and thick to stretchy like melted mozzarella cheese on a pizza – or it becomes so wet that it feels like you might have wet your underwear. Letting children know that when they experience this kind of fluid their body is trying to ovulate, and that they can prepare for a period in a fortnight by having their preferred period products in their school / sports /sleep over bag and at home. It can also be a reminder to think about scheduling in some restful time around their non-negotiable commitments over their pre-menstrual phase and upcoming bleed. And of course, you can do the same.
Sharing with your child about the inner seasons of their menstrual cycle is important and now can be a good time to begin talking about it, so that they recognise there is so much more to menstruation than just blood to manage! Explaining to your daughter that her nature will change daily, and certainly weekly, during the time between one period and the next is essential knowledge. When she understands that she will feel differently in her body, in her energy, in her moods and spiritually in her sense of self and the world, she will not question what is wrong with her as she experiences her cyclic nature. Knowing that she has four inner seasons just as the earth and the moon does, she will relate to how her energy rises in the follicular phase, and wanes in the luteal phase. She will know she has times for bursts of activity, energy, creativity and being with others, and to respect her body’s needs as she is drawn back into herself for replenishing quiet time, as one cycle draws to an end and other begins.
Menarche as a Rite of Passage
As your child’s body changes and menarche (their first period) gets ever closer, you can help your child see this moment as the powerful rite of passage that it is. It’s lovely to share stories with your daughter here about how old you were when you had your first period, because your child is likely to have theirs at a similar age, and to share positive memories or stories you might have in relation to that time of your life. If you don’t have any positive memories, I hear you, this is in fact the usual way sadly.
Now can be an important time for you to revisit your own menarche experience and think about healing your relationship to your own Maiden self, and importantly, to think about how you would have liked to have been supported and celebrated at that time of your own life. These insights can help you to think about how you can support your own child, however, it is important to let your child decide for themselves how they would like to celebrate their own Menarche, to honour their desires for their own body and to make it their own story, at a time of burgeoning independence and a growing sense of self.
When we put our unmet needs onto our children, they can turn away from us at a time we really want to encourage them to turn towards us in trust and love. Now can be a great time to invite your child to think about how they might like to celebrate their own menarche, perhaps with a little celebration in your family (whether all genders or just the women), with friends, or just with you.
Perhaps they want to be seen and recognised, or perhaps they would treasure a gift from you and their dad but prefer not to have a gathering. Perhaps they could begin to create a moon box of items they can use for selfcare during their period, such as period products, essential oils, chocolate, a sleep mask, a journal to record their menstrual cycle experience in, and nourishing herbal teas for example. Your child can think about which period products they might like to use out of all the options available, knowing they can try and change their mind as much as they like. The more power you give them now, the more power they will hold for the rest of their lives.
It’s time to celebrate! If your child shared their news with you, ask if they still want to celebrate the way they had planned, as it might have changed. Now is the time to honour this beautiful time of life for your child, remembering this is about honouring their journey and their wishes. If your child is not keen to celebrate in the way you would like them to, you might like to have a separate little ritual or celebration for yourself, to honour all it means to you too, because it’s truly an important milestone on your journey too.
If your child didn’t share their news with you but you sense they have begun to bleed, I encourage you to not take this personally. They might not be ready to share because they’re unsure, or want some privacy, or feel a bit embarrassed. You can gently remind them that you’re always there for them, checking in with how they are, without probing too much. It is their news to share, and they will do when the time is right. Notice your own feelings and stories coming up, and seek support if you need it, but trust that all the support you’ve given so far has and will make a big difference to their experience, even if it doesn’t look like what you hoped it would.
From a health point of view, it’s important now to know the differences between what healthy menstrual cycles present like in the early years as compared to what is normal for mature, adult menstrual cycles, because there is a difference, and it helps you and your child to know when to find help if you spot any red flags. For example, in the first two years of menstruation especially a child should have a period every 21-45 days whereas for adults the ‘normal’ range is every 21-35 days. Children should not go more than 90 days without a period once cycles start, although missing a period can happen early on as ovulation may not happen every cycle whilst production of the hormones responsible steadily increases until they reach optimal levels after a while. From then one, ovulation should occur each cycle.
Periods should last between 2-7 days in total without spotting mid-cycle, and your child should not have to use more than 6 tampons of pads per day of a period or pass clots bigger than a coin. Light cramps are normal as the womb contracts to release the blood, but pain that stops you from participating in everyday life is not normal at all. Severe mood changes that go beyond the realm of pre-menstrual tension need monitoring and addressing, both for children and adults.
Knowing these parameters should mean that you and your child can get any help that’s needed, because too many women and girls have suffered for too long due to the lack of training and understanding of menstrual health. When we are body and cycle-literate we can at least take this information to a medical practitioner or naturopath specialising in hormone health, so we can be our own best advocates. We can also learn to listen to our bodies, by asking how we feel and what we need, and negotiating how we can give that to ourselves by dropping what can be dropped, and supporting ourselves to do what we must.
This is why I recommend not just knowing these signs and what to look out for, whilst knowing your own cycle intimately through the practice of cycle charting. Teaching your child to cycle chart is a powerful tool for self-awareness, connection to the body, and developing a sense of sovereignty over how you manage and relate to your own body. Books will state how a menstrual cycle phase might be experienced, and give you clues to tune inwards, but we can all feel differently about it based on our own circumstances, so recording your own experience and teaching your child to do the same is important for personal authority and empowerment into the future.
Teaching your child to cycle chart
There are many ways to chart but the two ways I recommend best are using pen and paper to write down your feelings, bodily signs and what happened that day, which means you can take any notes you like and refer back to your charts. This can be especially useful for children who do not have a device. Alternatively, you can use the Spinning Wheels app which is confidential and focuses on honouring the cycle as a whole rather than linking it solely to fertility tracking, making it excellent for teens to use from the beginning. This alone makes it a wonderful tool to teach children to see the cycle as a powerful gift itself rather than a means to fertility alone.
Sharing your personal cycle charting practice with your daughter, and potentially with the wider family, can be such a powerfully positive way to do a cycle check-in where you notice where you’re at in your cycles, how you feel and what you need, giving you all a much deeper way of connecting, relating, and caring for each other. For example, planning family activities and parenting is much easier when you’re having open, nurturing conversations together. Imagine everyone in your family, including any sons and partners, knowing how and when to tend to you and your daughter whilst you both bleed, letting everyone experience the loving support, understanding and honouring you deserve as cyclical women. Imagine your daughter knowing how supported she is, and how confident she will feel to ask for what she needs!
May it be so!
First Moon Guide
If you would love a copy of my First Moon Guide ebook to gift your child you can make a low-cost purchase and download your copy instantly.
‘A First Moon Guide for Girls and their Parents’ is a 24 colour page illustrated resource designed to simply and clearly explain to t(w)een girls what they can expect to experience during puberty and at the onset of their first period (menarche). It includes paper cycle charts and is written and illustrated with children in mind so they can learn knowledge and wisdom relating to how their body changes in puberty and how to support themselves with understanding, self-compassion, body-literacy and self-love.
It also serves to fill in any gaps in your own knowledge so you can confidently have language to have open and nurturing conversations with your child as they come to you with questions time and time again.
I hope this has been helpful for you. Wishing you and your child the gift of relishing in the power and magick that lives within you through your menstrual cycle.
To connect with me, find further parent tips and menstrual cycle resources you can discover:
- Making HerStory, the one-moon self-healing menarche and womb journey,
- Subscribe for your free adult cycle guide,
- First Moon Guide ebook: download and print this colourful, illustrated age-appropriate resource your child can refer to again and again,
- First Moon Circle Facilitator Training: enrol by November 17th to become a children’s menstrual educator yourself in 2024.