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My daughter, Innocence & Menstrual Education

Updated: 7 days ago

Last week, I gathered online with a bunch of menstrual cycle educators from the UK, Belgium, Canada, US & Australia. Something really stood out on our reflections that we each meet where we work. 

It goes something like this: “She is not ready yet, she is so innocent.”

When I hear this, I feel uncomfortable in my body and I don’t know why. Over the years, I have learned to trust my body’s feedback. There is something at stake here.

Join me in my exploration of understanding the influence of the concept of ‘Innocence’ on accessing menstrual cycle education (and at the right time) for girls and young people.

🤔 What does ‘Innocence’ actually mean? 

From the online Oxford dictionary:

- the state, quality, or fact of being innocent of a crime or offence- ‘lack of guile, corruption; purity’

- ‘a person’s virginity’

Just those definitions, associated with children, send a shiver down my spine, bringing a lot of discomfort in me. Not so much the ‘guile’ bit, children are cunning and tricksters at times; it is part of growing up, discovering oneself and an all important quality to try pushing boundaries without consequences. Somehow I approve.

What really brings so much unease in my body is the association of girls and their growing up process with the words ‘being innocent of a crime/offence’, ‘lack of corruption’, ‘purity’ & ‘virginity’. Somehow, I knew these were the associations with ‘Innocence’ but could not see it clearly and that is the guile in the word ‘Innocence’; the deception that over time we do not see anymore for what it is.

Could our fear over the loss of ‘ innocence’ in a child be a cause / act as a barrier that these girls have met in the following stats?

‘One in seven girls (14%) report that they didn’t know what was happening to them when they started their period, while more than a quarter (26%) didn’t know what to do. With many young people lacking a good understanding about menstruation, myths and taboos are allowed to flourish whilst for some young people, a lack of understanding can lead to unresolved health problems.’

Are we confusing menstrual cycle education with sex education? If yes, I don’t blame you, in our schools it is lumped under Sex Education; and it is only presented in association with conception 🙄.

Or it may be that our children initiating their biological sexual development send us in a panic because they have not reached psycho-social maturity to deal with it.

Are we worried that by bringing menstrual cycle education and awareness early would bring the risk of somehow corrupting them?

Is the ‘innocence’ that we cherish, hiding another agenda, such as our grief in seeing our children growing independent?

Are we attaching an idealism to ‘innocence’?

How does the concept of ‘Innocence’ influence you?

What does it mean for you?

How does it play out in your relationship with your daughter?

The consequences of ‘Innocence’ on access to menstrual cycle education & on the parent-child relationship:

For me, the most worrying part is that children are not provided early enough with menstrual cycle education necessary for them to understand and have agency over their changing bodies; putting them at risk of having a more confusing, isolating and potentially traumatic experience later on, during their Menarche.

If we are only able to meet with fear our daughters crossing the threshold from early childhood to late childhood; why would they want to share the experience of their first bleed threshold with us?

In putting off menstrual preparation discussions for the sake of innocence; we may notice that our ‘innocent’ children have started their process of individuation, looking outwardly for answers, noticing the unspoken, the shame surrounding the topic. We have unconsciously reinforced the idea that menstrual experiences should stay unspoken & to be navigated alone. The taboo remains in the good name of ‘innocence’.

If we keep identifying our daughter with ‘innocence’ we run the risk of making our daughters feeling wrong or offending our feelings by growing up; not being loveable anymore because of their changing bodies over which they cannot have control. If we are not ready to acknowledge our changing children and support them openly in this, we will lose our role of guide in their lives.

What can we do to prepare ourselves and our daughters as they enter late childhood?

  • How are we feeling about our children growing up? Is there grief? Fear? Doubting of our skills to meet what is next?

  • How our own experience of growing up may influence how we approach our own children's threshold?

  • How our menstrual shame may rise in ourselves and how it expresses itself?

  • Have conversations about changing bodies from an early age to normalise these conversations, focusing on what our body can do for us.

  • Share your own experience of what it was like being an 8 / 9 / 10 years old.

Get those photos out for a moment of giggle and connections; discussing the difference between now and then.

  • Share memories of early childhood and celebrate the changes in the person that your daughter is becoming so she can feel seen & loved in that very transformation.

  • Bring menstrual cycle education earlier rather than later. It needs to be happening from 8 years old earlier if you can. Have many short conversations over time, nurturing that awareness. The earlier you start, the easier it is to follow your child’s curiosity about it.

Remember, menstrual cycle education is body literacy, NOT sex education.

The question begs: do we still want to abide by the law of ‘innocence’ when body sovereignty & menstrual cycle education is at stake?

Is the meaning that we put behind ‘innocence’ in service of a child growing up?

My understanding of the word ‘innocence’ of a child lies in that curiosity and their ongoing questioning on any topic because they have not received shame, dismissal or telling off for bringing their questions to you and others surrounding them.

It is in the shame free curiosity that so much knowledge can be passed on.

So it is in that very ‘innocence’ that topics such as menstrual cycle & body literacy & period preparation needs to be brought up.

And finally, let’s have loving compassion for ourselves as parents who have grown up in a menstrual shaming culture; leaving us uninitiated, uneducated on menstrual cycle health and still isolated in all of this.

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Cycles of Influence

Zooming out to better zoom in on systems at play in our lives that influences our menstrual cycle living. Containing thoughts, teachings, beliefs and rants with resources, links and a few PSs.

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