It’s time to talk to your kids about vaping.
In teens and in middle school kids, vaping has become epidemic and rampant – rising 48% in the past year in middle school students. Cases of vaping-related illnesses and deaths continue to climb. While THC and black market cartridges have been involved in many of the cases, public health officials say not one single ingredient or product has been linked to all of the illnesses.
Any product that is being inhaled could include potentially toxic chemicals that can harm young lungs. Some vapers who have left the hospital report needing oxygen, tiring more easily, and being unable to play football at school or go back to work.
This is why talking to our kids is more important than ever before. The best way to treat vaping, inhaling or ingesting any drugs is to prevent it. We need to talk to our kids frequently, with strong messaging, BEFORE a friend offers them something or a buddy at a party says, "Everyone is doing it, what’s the big deal." And we need to let them know about the very serious consequences of trying an e-cigarette. The most important message: Think before you act, and like the slogan from the 80’s, just say no.
So how do you talk to your often moody teen? Having conversations with your middle schoolers and teens is not easy. If you’ve been in the car and asked your son how the day went and he grunts, "fine," or had your daughter say, "leave me alone," while she texts her friends, you aren’t alone. Here are some ways to start the conversation:
- Use the media and news. Talking about the latest news on vaping deaths can be a great way to start the conversation about drugs or substances. Don’t worry if the conversation is short the first time -- you can continue it later.
- Make time. Conversations often happen when we sit down as a family and have time to be together. Schedule the time in by cancelling other activities and eating together whenever possible.
- Listen. If your kids or teens start talking about something, don’t ask too many questions. You will get more information about serious issues at the most unexpected times. And if it feels like the right time, talk about substance use.
- Control your reactions. There have been times I wanted to pounce on my kids. But being calm and not reacting can help keep communications lines open.
- Show them that you trust them. This will help self-esteem, which is key in the ability to make the right decisions. It will also help them come to you if there is anything that derails them.
- And last, keep your eyes open. Be present and observe. Has your daughter’s mood or grades changed? Is she not acting like herself? Is she asking for money all the time? The signs of vaping are subtle; you won't have an obvious smell of smoke like a cigarette, although you may smell ‘flavors’ such as fruit or bubble gum.
In general, I don’t recommend searching your teen’s laptop or room. Always be honest with your teen and have a conversation asking for the truth. But if you still suspect vaping or drugs after having a conversation, search their room because the stakes are too high. Let them know that you did it, and that it’s your duty as a parent is to protect them.
While the key is to have an honest open relationship with your teen, we must be there if our kids stumble. And if you find evidence of vaping, follow up with your doctor for more help.