Among the many challenges a parent faces, one of the hardest must be the task of telling children about the ‘facts of life’. But for mother of six, Alessandra Mullaly, it’s as natural as, well… the birds and the bees.
I am a happily married mother of six beautiful children ranging in age from nine to 22 years. They are Cassandra, 22, Patrick, 19, Christopher, 16, Lauren 12, Jeremy, 11 and Nathan, nine.
When my husband, Patrick, and I first met, we asked each other the perennial question: “How many children do you want to have when you marry?” Surprise, surprise we both said at the same time: “SIX!” Well here we are all these years later and we are blessed with six healthy children.
I probably started talking to the children about sex and sexuality when they were very young.
Certainly my older three remember me being pregnant and nursing their younger siblings. Along the way they have asked me how babies are made. I explain this in an age-appropriate way.
I always shared my sheer joy of carrying my precious babies and breastfeeding them. I always told them that God thought of everything and gave us the gift of our sexuality to procreate and share intimacy with the one special person that we marry.
I don’t recall taking them aside and explaining words ‘sex’ or ‘procreate’ with them as such. I guess I’ve always made them aware that our bodies are the temple of the Holy Spirit and therefore we should care for them.
I have always been open with my chldren about the natural rythms of the female body and how it works, and to help my children understand that this is beautiful, not dirty or distasteful.
I also have to instill in them an awareness of the sensitivity required in regards to the female body..
I always respond that if that were the case I would be so anaemic that I would never be able to get out of bed! My husband and I always practise natural fertility awareness. This has brought us closer, as he is always in tune with my cycle.
We live in a society which exposes us to so much sex without context everywhere we look and read. It is always in our face. We can’t escape it.
However we can teach our children to be discerning. Yes, it is normal to have feelings for the opposite sex. That does not mean we have to act on them all the time. I have always encouraged them to go out in groups instead of one on one.
The reality is that as parents we can’t be with our children ‘24-7.’ However, children not only hear what we say, but watch what we do. How my husband and I show affection and respect for one another is an example which we set for the children.
Alessandra Mullally is a primary school teacher, marriage educator with Catholic Marriage Education Services and family life educator for Natural Fertility Services. She regularly talks to engaged couples about Natural Family Planning and school students about sexuality and relationships.
However, she prefers to call herself a homemaker, as she considers it her primary vocation.