I’d seen Lori’s name and mentions of her podcast floating around. When I explored her site a bit more, I saw that she had created a ton of tools for parents and their kids. Aside from her podcast, she’s published a book, created discussion cards, and developed an app. I knew I had to talk to her about what had driven her to develop so many different resources, for parents in particular.
We had a delightful conversation and may or may not have wandered off on a tangent or two. But here’s the lowdown on the work she does.
How did you end up getting into sex ed?
I was a phlebotomist and I used to draw blood at a hospital. They had an AIDS wing and I met people who had contracted the virus. At that time, I thought I would go into medicine. But I met somebody who was really impactful who eventually ended up passing on. He went from being this angry, “get the f away from me” kind of person to this person wearing a diaper and not even knowing what was going on. I don’t think he ever had any visitors in his hospital room. I didn’t see anybody, any cards, any balloons… so that really impacted me. I thought, “How about I go into the preventive side?” and I found a program for health ed[ucation] and it just resonated with me.
I had jobs with a Catholic school on a grant program and then I worked in a middle school. When I taught puberty in middle school, everybody was together, fifth and sixth grade. There wasn’t this separation, and I didn’t get push-back. Everyone was together and we talked about… this is stuff most people go through. I would have boys raise their hands and ask, “Why am I still wetting my bed?” And I was like, “No, you’re probably having a wet dream and that’s a natural thing for somebody to have.” Right in front of everybody.
In another position, I had to meet with the parents first and then with the kids, and they separated the boys and the girls, and I thought, with that, at least the kids are getting something because, if you don’t do it, the kids may not get anything.
Parents would also say, “Could you tell me what the kids are going to ask?” So that’s why I wrote the book Common Questions Children Ask. I really believe in providing tools for parents.
Then when I went for my doctorate, I did research on what parents talked to third, fourth, and fifth graders about and, at first, I was like, “Why can’t parents talk to their kids [about sex]?” And then I realized they weren’t taught how. They didn’t have the tools.
Also, I noted this theme of parents expecting their children to come to them. Meanwhile, parents don’t always go to their children on these topics. So, I’ve been trying to create more tools. I had a contact help me create the Talk Puberty app. I wanted to create a tool where, if you’re sitting there with your child, you can just go through a question.
Since you’re the type of person who’s continually creating new things, are you working on anything right now that you’re particularly excited about?
I’m working on building the podcast more. For the fall, I’m going to have 13 episodes, looking at the social, mental, and emotional aspects of sexuality. I know some people would say, “well, you can have a class like this… you can sell a class.” But there’s a part of me that believes this type of education should be free.
And there’s a cost for the apps.
But the podcast… I want it to be a free educational resource.
What is it about this work that feels so essential to you?
It’s hearing from parents that it’s helped them talk with their young people. It’s helping them remove those barriers. Because there are so many barriers that are there.
What do you think are the most common fears parents have when it comes to approaching these conversations with their kids?
One is that they don’t want to see their child grow up, in a way. They want to protect them, which is such a natural thing for a parent.
I think the other barrier is that they think [talking about sex] might make [their kids] want to do things. They don’t want them to grow up too fast.
But I think it’s smart to recognize that by a certain age, children are already exposed to numerous messages regarding sexuality. And let’s talk about those messages!
Who are your sex ed superheroes?
I’m going to honor little Lori. That’s going to be my number one because she had a natural curiosity. And Steph, you’re talking to an individual who was not sexually active until later in life, so I honor little Lori for staying strong and staying curious. I think she could have gone the way of thinking [sex] is dirty. And she chose not to.
I also will say I love Heather Corrina. I think she’s done really well.