This is the second blog of our four part series Her Body.
How do our teen daughters view their menstrual cycles: with appreciation, acceptance, or annoyance? For teen girls who struggle with handling fluctuating hormones, pre-menstrual symptoms, or menstruation, their feelings on those feminine attributes may be influenced by the way our culture frames them. As Catholic parents, we can help challenge negative societal views by putting periods in perspective of God’s natural design.
Society influences us to view periods as unmentionable (just count the number of derogatory or code words there are for menstruation). If a famous singer has a leak onto her bathing suit in public, she is ridiculed on social media. When a teen girl displays emotions, we can be quick to label her hormonal. The term “PMS” is often used as more of an accusation than a diagnosis. For girls who would just rather not be bothered with cycles at all, modern marketing pushes pills, patches, and shots that aim to eliminate the inconvenience of symptoms associated with fertility.
So what can Catholic parents do to help our daughters grow to accept and eventually appreciate their cycles?
We can communicate positively with our teen daughters about their cycles, help them find practical ways to manage their physical symptoms, and guide them to healthy ways of handling their emotions that also help them acknowledge God’s natural design. Framing femininity positively can give teens an entirely different perspective on being female. God designed a girl’s body to cycle for a reason. What we convey about cycles to our daughters can have a great impact on how girls view and handle them both now and for the many fertile years they will have as a woman. Support from mothers, and even fathers, can provide great encouragement.
Talk with your daughter about her cycles. Make sure the subject isn’t taboo in your household. Ignore the eye rolls and ask her anyway about her cycle lengths, her stash of supplies, her symptoms, and how she’s handling it all. The more frequently you discuss the topic, the more likely she will be to come to you with questions, with potential medical issues, or for advice. If code words make the topic more approachable, ensure the ones you select don’t have negative connotations. Though we can’t change all of society, we can at least make our daughters feel that periods are not embarrassing or secretive at home.
Help your daughter get comfortable with coping. If a teen girl is struggling to manage bleeding, cramps, or other symptoms that interfere with her daily routine, she may need tangible ways to handle them before she can begin a path to actually accepting or appreciating anything. God made us each unique. There is no one-size-fits-all solution, so provide her with many options to help her manage the day-to-day challenges. Supply a variety of feminine products, suggest a heating pad or a warm bath, prepare a nourishing meal, and offer to exercise alongside her, or massage her lower back for her. Show your daughter that finding ways to handle these typical physical symptoms is achievable. Teach her that having normal cycles isn’t a disease, so it doesn’t need a prescription cure, just some natural solutions that female Saints before us have used for centuries.
Reassure your daughter that having emotions is expected. Then help her find healthy ways to deal with them. Take a walk with her and discuss the nature you see, noticing God’s intricate design for all things. The seasons of weather can help us appreciate aspects of each time in our lives and anticipate the next with hope. After a long cold winter, the chirping birds and blooming flowers of spring are enlivening. After a hot and humid summer, the brilliant leaf colors and pleasant temperatures of fall can be heart-warming. Following the walk, provide your daughter quiet time and, over time, she might reflect on how her body is functioning in God’s natural design.
Portraying cycles and femininity in a positive light can frame how a girl views her body, her worth as a female, her fertility, and her outlook on life. As Catholic parents, we want to guide our children to grow and stay close to Christ. Learning to appreciate God’s intricate design for their own cycles may encourage our daughters to see God’s handiwork in all aspects of their lives. We never know exactly what will kindle the connection, but we can help create encounters.
Click here to read the next blog in this series.