Red balloons, cakes adorned with fake bloodied tampons and goodie bags filled to the brim with menstrual products – welcome to the colourful world of period parties.
The idea is simple: when a child starts their period for the first time, their parents throw them a menstrual-themed party with a few close friends to celebrate this new chapter in their life.
While it might seem like some people’s idea of hell, period parties are a way for parents to smash the stigma that surrounds menstruation and turn what can be a scary event in your child’s life into something a little more positive.
Period parties have been around for a while now – with comedian Bert Kreischer bringing the idea of them into the mainstream in 2018 when he revealed on US talk show Conan that his daughter had wanted to throw one the day she came on her period.
“It was awesome,” he exclaimed of the event.
More recently, the trend has taken off on TikTok, with parents and older siblings sharing their own period party decor ideas and cake inspiration – yes, we’re talking bleeding Barbie dolls, red-dipped icing tampons and, of course, the original period party staple: red velvet cake. Some of the videos have racked up millions of views.
What’s the point in throwing period parties?
Period stigma is still a pretty big issue in society. In 2019, a survey by Plan International UK found one in five (20% of) 14-21 year olds had experienced teasing around their periods and made to feel shame, with only half (49%) telling anyone about it.
It can leave girls feeling embarrassed and suffering with low self-esteem.
At the time, a 17-year-old revealed how she’d heard periods referred to as “awful” and “disgusting” by her peers. “One boy even called me ‘dirty’ and refused to sit next to me in class after he overheard me talking about my period privately to a teacher. I was so embarrassed that I went home for the rest of the day,” they added.
Parents believe throwing such parties can help alleviate the anxiety that surrounds periods, while making them a bit more fun. It also helps to normalise the fact they happen, so there is less shame and secrecy at that time of the month.
It’s proven divisive, however, with some people not quite able to stomach the concept.
“I would’ve died if my parents did this,” said one person in response to the above TikTok video. “When did this become a thing?” another person asked. “Why? Just why?”
But in other videos, people praised the effort and impetus behind throwing such events. In response to one, where an older sister threw a period party for her younger sibling, someone commented: “This is awesome. For so long we’ve been taught it’s dirty and private. Celebrate the milestone while it’s exciting. Great sis and role model.”
“My mom did this and i loved it,” added another person. “It was hilarious.”
The importance of knowing if your child would be comfortable having one
Period parties might not be the right move for everyone. So if you’re thinking about throwing one for your child, you should strongly consider how they’d feel about it first.
“If all of your daughter’s friends are having period parties, she will probably be excited about her own, but if she’s the only one, she may not feel comfortable. She could be downright embarrassed,” writes Elisa Cinelli for Family Education.
“Although menstruation is not something to be ashamed of, we still need to respect our daughters’ need for privacy and let them decide whether or not a celebration is in order.”
So, it’s probably best to let your child know if you plan to throw them a party – surprising them might not be well-received and could result in a disagreement.
If your child doesn’t want a party, you could suggest a mini spa day, shopping trip, sleepover with friends or a family dinner instead.
Decor ideas for your period party
If your child is keen to throw a period party, here are some ideas of what you might want to make or buy for the occasion:
- Goodie bags filled with period products (pads, period pants, mini hot water bottle, etc) and snacks in red packaging (preferably chocolate).
- Red balloons and decorations.
- Red velvet cake or cupcakes, or – if you like to get creative in the kitchen – something a little more bespoke.
- Cranberry or pomegranate juice.
- Strawberries dipped in chocolate or jelly.