Dear Ask A Therapist, How do I talk to my teens about vaping? I have told them it is not allowed in our family. It seems to be quite popular, and I want them to know the risks of habits like this in …
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Dear Ask A Therapist,
How do I talk to my teens about vaping? I have told them it is not allowed in our family. It seems to be quite popular, and I want them to know the risks of habits like this in relation to mental health and just overall well-being.
That is a great question since vaping has become a real epidemic for teens. It is not only showing up in high schools but also in middle schools. While it has become extremely popular, it is illegal for anyone under the age of 18. That, however, does not seem to deter teens determined to vape. According to the Centers for Disease Control and prevention, Colorado high schoolers are vaping, or using e-cigarette products, at twice the national average.
The first thing to do before talking to your teens about vaping is to educate yourself about what it is, and the signs and risks of vaping, so you know what you are talking about going in. Many teens will argue that vaping is safe because it does not contain all the carcinogens found in cigarettes. While that is somewhat true, there are still many risks in vaping.
One of the biggest is nicotine addiction. Juul is one of the more popular vaping liquids and according to their site, the nicotine content of one Juul pod is equivalent to one pack of cigarettes. Because of the high nicotine levels, vaping is addictive. Teens are more susceptible to addiction than adults because their brains are still developing.
Another fear with vaping is that it is a gateway to cigarettes and marijuana. Research shows children who vape are more likely to use combustible cigarettes and try marijuana than their non-vaping peers. While these are just a few of the bigger risks, there are many resources out there to educate yourself on all the risks.
Finding that opening
Once familiar with the research, look for opportunities to have conversations about it. It could be anything like discussing a letter that comes home from school to seeing a commercial on TV.
Keep the dialogue open so rather than saying, “It’s bad for you,” ask them what they know about it. Try to use open ended questions such as, “What do you think about vaping?”
Keep an open mind and try to understand why teens vape. For many teens its curiosity, wanting to fit in, peer pressure or it can fill other needs such as relief from boredom and anxiety.
Some do it to get energy to take tests, for cloud tricks or just that they enjoy the flavor. Try to understand why and address it from that angle.
It is also important to set clear expectations and consequences. If you choose to have consequences make sure you follow through on them.
A good way to end the conversation is by helping them feel prepared. Ask your teens what they would say if someone offered them a vape pipe. This is a good opportunity to role-play refusal skills. This will help them feel prepared if they are approached at school or in social situations.
Lastly, be a good example, keep your home vape and tobacco-free. If you do vape, secure your supplies and equipment. If you think your teen may be addicted, seek professional help.
Lisa Von Colln, MA, LPC, RPT is a therapist in the Early Childhood Program at the Community Reach Center located in Thornton. Lisa is a Licensed Professional Counselor and a Registered Play Therapist who works with children and families using a trauma-informed lens.
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