By David Akva
Recently, the CEO of Juul Labs, the manufacturer of the best-selling e-cigarettes, publicly apologized to parents of teens who vape. “I’m sorry for them and the challenges that they’re going through,” said Kevin Burns, “I’m sorry that their child is using the product. It’s not intended for them.”
Let’s face it… vaping is so prevalent among kids, that it’s now a verb, “Juuling.” With so many scary reports about how unhealthy vaping can be for kids, how can we get them to stop?
For many parents, the go-to conversation is to announce the life-threatening facts and then “lay down the law” that the unhealthy behavior will simply not be tolerated. If that sounds familiar, you are not alone. But in my experience working with teens, I’ve learned that having “the talk” or threatening punishment is not the way to change your child’s behavior. It may even do the opposite… make the behavior even more intriguing.
So, what is a practical way to talk to your kids and get results? The answer is not simple and at times may go against some of your typical parenting impulses to jump in and fix things, but in my experience, using the tips below as a guide has been helpful not only around the issue of Juuling, but also in dealing with other risky behaviors.
- Talk with them, not at them.
Most kids already know that there is a danger to Juuling. For some, that could be the attraction. While I said they don’t like “The Talk,” as a parent I know it is important for you to make sure they know the dangers. You might start the conversation casually just by mentioning that you heard something scary on the news about more and more kids showing up in emergency rooms after vaping. Teens and young adults desperately want to be trusted to make their own decisions. Let them know that if they are making a decision to vape or not to vape, they should have the facts so that they can make a fully informed decision. You can get facts from The National Center for Health Research. Want to steer them toward information they’ll find more relatable and less like a lecture? TheTruth.com has a great multi-media section on #vaping geared toward teens that uses humor, anime, pop culture, and cool graphics to deliver the facts.
- Find out if there is a void.
Juuling or other behaviors are often a way to fill an internal void. The challenge is figuring out what that might be. Is it wanting to fit in? Is it to manage stress, anxiety, or depression? Some teens who deal with mental health conditions have told me that vaping calms them. I’ve also learned through my work with teens that struggles in school or worries about money can be a trigger. Listen to what your child has to say, and what they don’t say. Sometimes you have to read between the lines. Times when you are just hanging out or driving in the car, are great opportunities to chat about everyday things that could give you clues. Use innocent curiosity as a non-threatening approach. Say things like, “I’m really curious, what’s the attraction? Why do you like it? How does it make you feel?” If you aren’t sure whether your child is vaping or are worried that using “you” will put them on the defensive, instead of “you,” be more general and substitute the word “people.” That may allow them the space to answer without admitting use.
- Constantly connect with your child
Everyone wants to feel connected, but it is especially important for kids and teens. Feeling disconnected is a common reason young people start using substances (and yes, like tobacco, alcohol, and drugs, e-cigarettes are a substance), so finding ways – large and small – to reinforce your connection with your child can be helpful. As they get older and their lives get busier, it may be more difficult to spend long periods of time together, but even something as simple as leaving them a loving or encouraging note on the bathroom mirror or the refrigerator goes a long way in letting them know you are there and you care. While there is no guarantee, feeling that connection with you may make it easier for them to talk to you about the things that matter to them. Today, the topic may be Juuling, tomorrow it may be something more.
The truth is, there is no surefire way to stop teens from Juuling. Your most valuable asset is your parental “Spidy Sense.” And remember, raising children is a marathon, not a race. We can’t always expect immediate results from the seeds we plant.
David Akva, LMSW is a Therapist for JCS Therapy Services.
JCS provides a broad range of services that meet the diverse, multi-dimensional needs of individuals and families throughout Central Maryland. We offer guidance and support when you are seeking solutions for emotional well-being, aging and caregiving, parenting, job seeking, employers and businesses, achieving financial stability, living with special needs, and preventing risky behaviors. To learn more, please visit our home page or call 410-466-9200.