E-cigarettes and vaping devices are the most recent fad among teens, leaving parents anxious and sometimes paralyzed with fear. This smokeless, odorless and innocuous device makes detection difficult and easily hidden. Every day, over 3,500 youths start vaping. Whether your child is using or not, you can be sure that they are exposed. The importance of making an informed decision is the first line of defence in prevention.
What exactly is Vaping?
Water vapor is emitted from the device instead of smoke. A small heating element turns the liquid into a vapor that is inhaled through a mouthpiece. This vapor is primarily odorless and difficult to detect. Each device requires “pods” that contain nicotine. Nicotine is the addictive substance found in cigarettes and deemed “safe” by kids because of the absences of tar and ash found in tobacco products. Besides nicotine, these devices can contain harmful ingredients, including: ultra fine particles that can be inhaled deep into the lungs, flavors such as diacetyl, a chemical linked to serious lung disease, and volatile organic compounds. These “pods” are often sold in 6 packs and are marked with flavors that appeal to kids. Depending on how much you vape daily this habit can cost anywhere from $387 to $5000 per year. Products can be easily purchased on line as verified proof of age is not needed.
What’s the problem?
We know that adolescents' brains are under re-construction. Those regions in the brain that guide decision making and impulse control are still developing and not always online. The teen brain also inspires risk taking in ways that can impact health and safety. The long term effects of exposure to nicotine can include addiction, mood disorders, and permanently reduced impulse control. Nicotine can also affect the formation of brain synapses that control attention and learning.
Tips for talking to your kids about vaping
Keep the following in mind.
- Take time to cool off. Engaging in an angry and emotion filled discussion that is a result of a recent discovery or suspicion of your child's use, is counter productive. Step away and collect your thoughts. Avoid accusations, blame and name calling. Stick to the
facts. For example:
- I am deeply upset and worried about your use.
- My main concern is your health and the addictive qualities of vaping.
- We don’t support this and it will not be allowed in our home.
- We will monitor your use and will look through your room and backpack as necessary to keep you safe until you can keep yourself safe.
- Take advantage of teachable moments. Let the news and current events open the dialog. If you have read an article or seen a program, share it with your child. Ask for their point of view on the issues. Make it more about a discussion than a lecture. The more your child knows and the more often you have open dialog about substances, the more likely these conversations will become routine for everyone in the family that it is safe to voice opinions, concerns and questions.
- Stick to the facts. This is important. Avoid judgement about smoking. Teens are already self- conscious and can often feel insecure during this complicated developmental stage. Judging choices made by your child or their friends will close the door to future conversations. Avoid put-downs and criticisms. Using “I Statements” will keep the discussion focused on your feelings about an issue rather than blaming or shaming someone for theirs. For example:
- I am concerned about the health effects related to vaping. From what I have read there are many chemicals and their danger that have yet to be determined. What do you think about this?
- I have noticed many ads and discussions about vaping and the unknown side effects. What have you heard?
- Plan for this to be an ongoing conversation as it is not one that will result in a definitive solution.
- Make rules and expectations clear. Just as you outline and discuss expectations regarding household chores and curfews, plan to be clear about rules and expectations about vaping and other substances. Communicate that you do not approve of use and your related concerns. Make the consequences meaningful and appropriate for the infraction. In addition, transparency about how you will enforce house rules is important. Be honest about how or if you will exercise your right to search their room or backpack as well as other items brought into your home.
- Get an expert involved. Asking your pediatrician or school counselor to speak to your child may be better received and will support and reinforce your messaging and guidance. Assure your child that this discussion will be confidential and not shared outside of the office. There are also many reliable government and professionally curated websites that can shed light on the evolving research.
- Allow for the natural consequences. Learning from the natural consequences their actions can increase teens’ sense of responsibility. Making excuses or interfering with consequences does not help your children in any way. Failure or disappointment at this age as it can prove to be the most impactful lesson and save more harsh consequences later in their young adult life.Keep in mind:
- You know your child best. Educate yourself and use your best judgement when addressing vaping or other substance use with your child.
- Stick to the facts and reserve judgement.
- Make your expectations of family rules and consequences clear.
- Reach out for help for yourself or your child.
- Allow for natural consequences.
Parenting can be challenging and there are no perfect ways to meet your child’s needs. Open communication with your children and the parents of their friends, if possible, can facilitate ongoing education and discussions as well as promoting a unified front.
For more information:
If you are feeling concerned about your child’s involvement with vaping or other substances, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org to arrange a private consulting session with a Peace At Home expert.
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