Black girls tend to menstruate earlier than girls of other races—and parents are stepping up to welcome them into womanhood with educational (and fun!) "first moon parties."

By Christine Michel Carter
December 02, 2020
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Credit: Emma Darvick

In modern-day America, most girls get their first period between 12 and 13 years old, according to The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. But the age of menstruation onset is slightly younger for Black girls who, statistically, get their first menstrual cycle sooner due to health disparities, increased material hardship, and levels of stress, and more.

Because of this, there is a growing trend in the Black community to celebrate the occasion with what's known as a "first moon party." Fueled by social media, the old tradition is going mainstream again.

But this isn't just your typical period party.

While first moon parties originally popped up because people believed that menstrual cycles synced with the moon's lunar phases (a theory that has been, of course, disproven), today, the ritual is seen as a rite of passage that instills values, principles, and knowledge of a young girls' self, explains Sesheta Tafari, a certified holistic doula based in Cincinnati, Ohio.

In essence? It's a welcoming introduction to femininity and womanhood.

Here, the importance of celebrating menstruation—and how to host a first moon party for your daughter.

The Importance of Celebrating Menstruation

First, it's important to note that all girls react to menstruation differently. Some are aware of it, anticipate every single change, and are vocal about it. Others are horrified, ignore it, and pretend like it isn't happening. But it's still essential to recognize the meaning of life transitions.

"The habits, beliefs, perspectives, and insecurities we develop during puberty and adolescence directly influence the habits, beliefs, perspectives, and self-confidence we have as adult women," explains Chimsom T. Oleka, M.D., a pediatric and adolescent gynecologist in The Woodlands, Texas.

Indeed, 50 percent of mental health issues begin before age 14, according to psychiatrists—and there can be a lot of anxiety and negativity projected onto menstruation. Often, that develops from the experiences surrounding that very first period.

Publicly celebrating the occasion—for those who are open to it—is a way to make periods seem fun, cool, and exactly what they are: a regular part of a woman's life. Celebrations are also a way to help a girl feel confident in their changing body and proud of what their body can do.

Take it from someone who has been there: Vanya Francis, an entrepreneur and Black mother in Atlanta held a first moon party for her daughter by carefully choosing an intimate group of her friends who'd already started their periods to celebrate with. She also invited a group of trusted women and elders and honored the occasion with cake and sparkling cider.

"I wanted my daughter to have a different relationship to her body than I had growing up," she says. "My daughter received beautiful notes filled with love, encouragement, and reassurance about her power as a result of this transition."

Thinking of planning one? Traditionally, first moon parties are held anytime during the first year of a girl's menstrual cycle, says Dr. Oleka. Below, our experts provide tips on how to host an in-person or virtual celebration.

Seek Out Educational Resources

The first moon party should have two goals, experts say: to help your daughter feel proud of her body and to reduce the fear and anxiety experienced with the unknown.

To do this, you might gather information from books, YouTube videos, or conversations with trusted medical professionals to share with her. You'll want to provide options for menstrual products, including organic, natural, and non-toxic options for womb health; teach your child what normal and abnormal periods are; and inform her about the importance of a healthy diet and proper body care.

Consider the below educational resources:

You could also join in on an annual event such as The Period Party, an educational celebration to reduce menstrual shame started by Black Moms Blog founder Shanicia Boswell. In February, The Period Party will be held virtually.

"My 8-year-old daughter can explain in detail what happens when a woman menstruates," says Boswell. "She understands her womb and cycle are connected to her ability to give life. As Black women, our young girls have been told that they are 'too grown.' This celebration is a way to reclaim their bodies and the labels that have been placed upon them by society."

Regardless of how you share information, it should be relayed in an inviting and comfortable way.

Ace the Invite List

When it comes to the invite list, the people at the party matter. Gather female family members who are willing to discuss their first experience openly to offer words of wisdom. Even better if these are women your daughter looks up to. Also, ask her friends to tell stories of how they started menstruating. By doing so, you're creating a safe space for another young girl who needs encouragement.

Gift Accordingly

Not sure what to gift a girl who just got her period? Consider presenting your daughter with a first period kit, which encourages empowerment—not shame—around menstruation. "A first period kit shows that you have positively prepared for this moment and are welcoming her into womanhood," says Boswell. "It also makes sure that no matter where she is, she is prepared for her menstrual cycle mentally and physically."

When it comes to what to include in the kit, focus on what she is worried about most when it comes to menstruation, and think of ways to ease those fears, says Dr. Oleka. You might have a sit-down with your daughter before you make her personalized box to see what she might like or need most. "Is she most anxious about leaking through onto her clothes? Then maybe gift her with period panties in the shape of a cake," suggests Dr. Oleka.

A box of pads, chocolate, a bottle of water, and a congratulatory card with a handwritten message are always good picks, too.

Another option? Simply share gifts that encourage self-care during what can be a tumultuous time, such as journals, crystals, and personalized mugs.

Remember: It's Her Party

As a mom, it's easy to mistake your daughter's first experience as an opportunity to redo your own. To avoid this trap, make sure the first moon party reflects who your daughter is—and who she is becoming.

"If the first moon party is a (welcomed) surprise for your daughter, focus on what she likes to do by herself and with friends," suggests Dr. Oleka. For example, if she enjoys music, find a way to incorporate her favorite artists or songs into the party. If she's a budding fashionista? Encourage guests to wear different colors of a menstrual period—red, pink, or brown.

If the party is planned, include her in the overall execution of the party theme, decor, games, and party favors, suggests Dr. Oleka. "Tapping into what she enjoys and then putting a period spin on it will help to customize her first moon party, making it unique, memorable, and fun."

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