You’ve been learning about your menstrual cycle and how to attune to its changing daily strengths, vulnerabilities, and self-care needs – and it’s been life changing to finally learn what you should have learnt as a child. So imagine how powerful it would be for our children to learn this knowledge and wisdom now – rather than having to figure it all out after many years of being disconnected to their body, their cycle and therefore, themselves. 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 gentle, age-appropriate, and empowering for you and your child.
Many mothers have traditionally thought that children aren’t ready to learn about their body, how it changes, what menstruation is, or anything else associated with puberty until they have their first period but when we leave “the talk” until this time, children already have a lot of feelings, thoughts and confusion about what’s been happening to their body and sense of selves for a while, and they question what these changes mean about them if they are left in the dark.
Children in the playground talk and share information that’s usually incomplete or inaccurate, leaving children to piece the story together themselves. Schools deliver education that’s most often squashed down in one or two hours total to combine information on what periods are and how to manage blood, anatomy and how reproduction works which sends children the message that having periods means that falling pregnant is something to fear, and that when they begin their periods, they’re ready to have sex, which is not the case at all from a developmental point of view.
When talking about periods is so uncomfortable, it continues the menstrual taboo that we have been victims of for millennia. So how do we cultivate a period positive culture?
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 separate the two topics, and normalise menstruation from the beginning. Small children love to follow their mums to the bathroom to watch and learn what we’re doing there. If you find yourself closing the door on your young child when you have period, consider letting them in and not hiding your menstrual blood or your menstrual products.
Small children will watch with fascination, curious about why there is red / blood in your underwear or the toilet now, having not seen that before. They might ask whether that is red poo or wee if they don’t realise it’s blood. 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 its magickal life-giving blood that doesn’t come from a cut, it comes from your womb where babies grow.
The blood flows from your womb on the inside, out through your vagina and that it is your body practicing making a nest which a baby would grow safely inside of if you were having a baby, but because you are not right now, your womb packs down the nest each month and cleans it out, before practicing building a new nest again in case you fall pregnant next month.
This nest analogy is a really helpful way of explaining the purpose of periods to toddlers, pre-schoolers and young school children. They might have more questions from this point, or ask you the same thing next time they see your period blood, and that’s ok. Let them ask, give them the same answer, check if that makes sense, and over time, it will be second nature to them and 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 two upwards, and my 8 year old feels like she understands why we have periods through this nest analogy. I think it’s so important to share this with children of all genders so we can normalise menstruation early on for all, not just for our daughters.
My small 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 where they sit in or on your body.
My small 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!
Besides managing my blood, I love to let my children know that since I am bleeding, its 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, and they will be a bit more sensitive to my needs for alone time in my bedroom. They will 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 their bodies too, especially during menstruation.
At this age its all aboutnormalising menstruation by making it visible, positive, and a time of self-care and rest.
Puberty talks with pre-pubescent children
As children grow up from around the ages of about 7-8, especially for daughters who will have periods, we can start to share more information as they can understand more. Now is a good chance to explain that your child will one day have periods too, that their body will start to become an adult body and after a few years, they will have their magickal menstruation too. Children should learn about what changes to expect as puberty begins, and that they will not just change physically, but their brains change so they see the world and themselves differently, and can experience newer, bigger and deeper feelings for people than before too. Puberty is a process that takes 6 years to complete, beginning with the ovaries enlarging and the hormone oestrogen starts being produced. At this point, external changes are invisible, but change is happening. After a period of time, breast buds will begin to develop as the first external sign of puberty. From there, pubic and arm pit hair will grow, leg hairs will thicken, and girls gain some weight which is much needed to help them grow taller and curvier. Breasts will continue to grow and change shape.
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.
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 the vast majority of 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 actually cervical fluid is a wondrous thing and a very clever indicator that your child can learn to read, to work out when their period can be expected to come – no more getting caught out!
Teaching girls to look out for fertile cervical fluid helps them know if and when they might be ovulating, because two weeks after ovulation comes their period. So if they can be on the look out for the thinner, stretchier cervical fluid that is like melted mozzarella cheese on a pizza – or is so wet that they feel like they might have wet their undies – they can prepare for a period by having the period products they need in their school bag and at home, and can even help them think about scheduling in some restful time around their non-negotiable commitments. You can also talk to your daughter about how to prepare over their pre-menstrual phase, including how they might feel and how you feel during this inner Autumn phase, ways to accommodate dropping energy and an increased need for alone time, and how to hold space for big feelings that might come up. You can factor in being present for your daughter at this time, so she feels supported, held and heard as she learns to navigate the pre-menstruum and her bleeds in the early days especially.
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. Its 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. 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 really 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 your child would LOVE to attend a very special First Moon Circle!
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 moonbox 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 they 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. You might like to have a separate little ritual or celebration for yourself, to honour all it means to you 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 really 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. 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 is important for personal authority and empowerment into the future.
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, or digitally using the Spinning Wheels app. The Spinning Wheels app is confidential and is different to many apps that link the cycle to fertility, which is great to help children see the cycle as a powerful gift itself rather than a means to fertility. The app also offers clues for what’s happening in the external seasons and cycles that can so affect us such as the earth, and the moon, plus how the stage of life we are in shapes us too. It’s an holistic app that allows us to capture personal information so we can compare our cycles and build up a picture of what’s happening both on the day to day, and month to month scale, as well as tap into the wider cyclical way of living and relating.
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, and you can consider each other in your family plans and parenting. Imagine everyone knowing to tend to your daughter whilst she has her period, so she feels supported, positive, and able to ask for what she needs!
First Moon Guide
If you would love a copy of my First Moon Guide ebook to gift your child, so you both have easy-to-read, age-appropriate language around puberty changes, menstrual cycle seasons and self-care, and female anatomy, you can make a low-cost purchase and download your copy instantly here.
These guides are ideal for your child to come back to again and again, and they’re great to read together as you’ll learn for yourself no doubt too. Guides include a cycle chart and beautiful illustrations throughout.