A bloody celebration: Why parents are throwing ‘period parties’ for their daughters
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First moon parties, menstruation celebrations, period parties – they have many names, but commemorate one event: a woman’s first period.
Historically, period parties can be traced back to biblical times when it’s believed women would menstruate together in a red tent. Today, many cultures have long-standing rituals that honour and celebrate women transitioning from one stage of life into another. Now, they’re taking over TikTok.
Period parties are becoming a trend in Australian homes.Credit: Stephen Kiprillis/iStock
On the social media platform, short clips usually feature family homes decorated with red balloons and streamers, blood-themed cakes or biscuits, and gift packs with sanitary supplies, chocolate, pain relief medication and heat bags, with themed games like “period bingo” being played.
While the celebrations are extremely popular online, with #periodparty gaining over 96.8M views on TikTok, they are also finding their way into Australian homes.
Something to celebrate
Sarah Teague-Jones, a mum of two based in regional Victoria, threw her daughter a period party to help make the natural, yet often challenging, experience positive and to rid the shame associated with menstruation.
“Girls are taught to feel ashamed of their period everywhere they look. From family to what they see on TV. It needs to change,” she says.
The period party included six of Teague-Jones’ adult friends and one of her daughter’s friends, who all shared their individual experiences of menstruation from the heaviness of their flow to hormonal changes and their side effects. They also embraced the occasion with food and fun.
“We all wore something red and the food was themed red. My husband was there with a red jumper on.”
Her daughter viewed the party with affection and it’s considered as an important reason why she embraced puberty so confidently.
“My daughter is positive about her period,” Teague-Jones says, “She doesn’t shy from telling us that she has her period, and when friends come over and accidents happen, she hasn’t hesitated to come to me for help or supplies. It’s not shamed in our house, just normal.”
When to approach with caution
While Teague-Jones is proud to have held a period party for her daughter, 32-year-old Bianca Terry, who had a party thrown for her when she first had her period at age nine, found the experience very uncomfortable.
“My mother and nonna were both waiting for me at the gate – I knew something embarrassing was about to occur because Nonna never picked me up from school,” says Terry. “All of a sudden, there was praise, love and emotions coming from my nonna as she celebrated my coming into womanhood.”
Once home, Terry says the celebration continued with an honorary salute to her period and a family dinner. “At the age that I was, I just felt embarrassment,” she says, “I was extremely young.”
Dr Kimberley O’Brien, principal child psychologist at Quirky Kids, says embarrassment is a common reaction from girls to period parties.
“Most I have checked in with didn’t like the concept of the period party,” says O’Brien. “They see it as a private stage they would share with their mum, rather than the whole family or social group – mostly because they feel that when they look back, they may feel embarrassed that they’ve had friends over to celebrate that.”
But while Terry was initially embarrassed by her period party, she now reflects on the experience fondly.
“Growing into an adult, I saw the reason behind celebrating this moment. It signifies the potential of having children one day and growing the already large family. This is an important value in Italian culture: family,” she says.
She also believes it helped normalise the experience for her and this has, in turn, influenced her now open, honest and supportive approach with both her stepdaughters and daughters.
“I sat her [eldest stepdaughter] down and gave her a purse, which had information packs around periods and sample pads. We talked through what she had been through with her mum and I shared my own experiences with her,” says Terry. “I did the same for my second stepdaughter too.”
The right kind of support
While not every adolescent girl has a positive opinion about period parties, O’Brien says that the view is dependent on the individual.
She believes it’s important to have discussions about any potential celebration with the young person before planning anything, and to always follow their lead.
But party or no party, most importantly, O’Brien believes that parents can best help their daughters prepare for their period by embracing lots of education, a view also shared by primary school health and physical education teacher Claire Morris.
“I strongly believe that we fear what we don’t understand. We usually find that when we take the time to get informed about something, it’s not that scary. With an accurate understanding and positive approach to these body changes, I hope that their potential fear turns into pride, positivity and celebration.”
At Morris’s school, students have the option to celebrate with a smaller – yet just as special – tradition: a milkshake date for any student who gets their first period at school.
“My job is to make her realise she’s OK, safe and that something special has just happened,” says Morris. “And while I am sure there might be a few who don’t come down to see me, I would be confident that most do. What child doesn’t want a milkshake?”
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