Being a girl...becoming a woman.
5 ways to support girls through this time...
As girls make that all important transition in adolescence, that really has no official start date or end date, they can be somewhat overwhelmed with all of the change that occurs. I know I was horrified at knowing there was this impending day that would arrive where I would begin to bleed and having no idea when that was going to be. I spent a good 3 years turning around and checking the back of my school dress every time I stood up not knowing if one day it would be stained with blood and I would be humiliated in front of the whole class, my teacher and indeed it felt like the whole school! Thankfully it didn't happen like this but I still did feel enormous embarrassment and shame at having my period and it was certainly something that I kept very secret.
As well as the array of physical and emotional changes that happen, of which there are many, around this time, girls are looking and searching for a way to be in the world. Their body is maturing and they can feel the pull towards womanhood and naturally look for what this actually means. In today's world, girls are bombarded with confusing messages. From the ever-present and concerning images in our media landscape that unashamedly objectify and sexualise women, to the driven, fast paced and exhausted women that may be very much a part of their lives and everything in between, the message that girls are getting is confusing to say the least and overall one that tells them that it is not ok to simply be themselves.
So this time in a girls life, where she is becoming a woman, is pivotal in her development. She is setting herself up for what lays ahead. As adults we have a very crucial part to play.
How can we support girls through this transition?
1. Opening up conversations.
Be real and honest and share your stories. This is a beautiful way to connect and show the young girls in your life that it is ok to be vulnerable. You may have a story about when you first got your period and how that was for you. And even how you've experienced it since. The subject of periods is still taboo, so the more we can talk about it and expose the shame, guilt and ideas of it being a curse or an inconvenience, the easier it will be for our girls to begin to see what a blessing their cycle is and how it is such a normal and beautiful part of being a woman. Find out about cervical mucous and vaginal discharge and talk about how this is something very normal. Talk about the emotional changes that can sometimes be difficult to navigate yet often alleviated when talked about and understood.
2. Keeping a diary
Encouraging her to keep a diary or a journal where she can express how she feels and where she develops her relationship with herself. This is especially supportive if she is following the days of her cycle, so she can start to feel how her cycle is there to support her. Keeping track of your own cycle so that you are developing your own relationship with yourself makes it all the more powerful. The Our Cycles App is my number 1 choice when it comes to tracking cycles - for menstruating and menopausal women as well as for men!
3. Finding a mentor
It is always a huge bonus if there are other women in her life that she trusts and can open up to. This way she has the beautiful opportunity of many reflections. This could be a friends, neighbors. Aunties or other relatives. Look out for more programs and education from Follow your Flow and in-person and online Counselling also available where we can cover topics to include body image, periods, puberty, media messages, relationships, healthy eating and self-love.
Simply celebrating who she is, not for anything that she might do or how she may look, but simply for the precious girl and young woman that she is and always will be. Often parents can change their perception of girls as they become a woman and unconsciously see them as 'all grown up' which they are, but the truth is, we never grow out of the precious quality we see in every baby and young girl. Even as women we still have this and many women now are finding their way back and wondering why they ever left. When a girl is celebrated for simply being herself, she will thrive in the most beautiful and fulfilling way, reflecting her innate beauty to the world.
5. Supporting ourselves
And finally but most importantly, the more we are able to support ourselves, as women and as men, the more we will be able to be there for our girls. We alsodeserve to be celebrated for who we are, so feeling and knowing our own value and worth is a key ingredient. Be practical and start with connection. Our connection to ourselves is paramount and is the beginning of what could be a very real and honest relationship with ourselves. Then there really is no limit to how this can support those around us...