Teenagers vaping is an issue that is seen on a weekly or even daily basis in our office. As therapists, it is not our role to parent and set limits with teen clients about vaping. With that being said, we do educate our clients on the facts of vaping as well as help them explore their choices, how those choices impact their lives and process healthier alternatives. As a parent, it is hard to have the conversation and set limits, because you are worried and likely angry. We hope these tips are helpful in dealing with a hard situation.
1. Educate yourself. If you are not aware of what e-cigarettes look like, then I encourage you to open up your web browser and search images of e-cigarettes. It is possible that you have seen one, but not even known what it was. Learn about what it looks like and what it smells like so that you are no longer a naïve parent. Also, read up on the facts of what are in e-cigarettes and the lasting impacts they may have. It is important to spend the time to understand what your teen is putting into their body. We have found the facts on this website to be very educational: https://truthinitiative.org/news/e-cigarettes-facts-stats-and-regulations
2. Find the right time. Timing is important. When a person feels like they are getting into trouble they often become defensive or shut down completely. Try talking with your teenager before they even start vaping. If you know they have already started, then talk to them about it in a non-threatening way, such as when you see another person smoking or you see a commercial. Don’t beat around the bush about them having tried it, just ask them. They can sense when you are trying to get at something, so just be honest and to the point. “I saw the post of you vaping, let’s talk about it.”
3. Instead of lecturing, have an open dialogue. Children and teenagers are often told what to do. “Clean your room,” “Finish your vegetables,” “Do your homework,” “Don’t vape, it’s bad for you.” When it comes to this topic, I encourage you to keep an open ear to what they have to say. Slow down with your child. They most likely will tell you what they have been told, which is that it is safer than cigarettes and that it is not addictive. Please, listen to what your child has learned from others. This is important information. You can correct them after you have learned what they have learned, but slow down and listen. By slowing down, you can help them slow down too. This helps teach them emotional regulation, as they are most likely anxious as well.
4. Lower your tone. Teenagers are often times getting yelled at for leaving things out of the fridge, or not getting an assignment in on time. They can get used to a higher volume or a certain tone to the point where it becomes disregarded and background noise. When having serious conversations, such as this, make sure your tone is not threatening or they might become defensive or brush it off because they are used to it.
5. Educate your teen. JUULing and vaping are the same thing. Do not let your child tell you otherwise. JUULing has nicotine in it and nicotine is addictive. While their brains are developing it is dangerous to start an addictive substance because, it can lead to them starting other addictive behaviors or substances. Drop the mic. End of story. One pod or juice can have up to 200 puffs. That is way more than a pack of cigarettes.
Your teenager might say that they get the pods that do not have nicotine, or that it is safer than smoking. Remind them that nicotine is not the only concern. Nicotine or not, they are putting very harmful chemicals into their bodies that they are likely unaware of. It seems like no one really knows. Ask them to think about how scary that is to think about. Remind yourself that as much as you have every right intention, you are not able to control what your teen does. Use this time to educate them rather than reprimand them. When they are alone with their friends, the facts you tell them are more likely to be in their mind if they were said in a heart-felt way.
6. Set limits. Adolescence is a constant power struggle. I find that parents tend to feed into this power struggle by making everything a battle. Do not make your job as a parent harder than it needs to be. Let some things go, so that you are trapped in rigidity. Be strategic with what you focus on. Vaping is a bigger issue than leaving their shoes in the middle of the room, but if they are treated with the same intensity, your teen will likely begin to dismiss big concerns as just another thing you’re deciding to nag about.
That being said, you are the parent and you are responsible for setting limits. If your child is already vaping, find the vape and dispose of it. Vaping in school bathrooms, malls, movie theatres, and other places where adult supervision is limited is most likely where your child is vaping. If you find out your child has posted themselves vaping, take the vape and throw it away. Do not keep the device, because your child will find it and use it again. If they choose to buy another one, then they choose to spend their money going back into the garbage.
7. Be empathetic. When your teenager gets angry with you taking their vape away, validate that anger. They spent their money on it. Think about where that anger is coming from. Chances are your teenager is not vaping to be defiant. When I think about what comes with vaping it is deeper than mere peer pressure- its about peer acceptance. Your child wants to be accepted. One way to be accepted is to do what others are doing. If they have been vaping for a while now, they are likely becoming dependent, which adds another layer of agitation when quitting.
8. Actions speak louder than words. If you do not want your child to vape or smoke, set that example. If you are a parent who smokes, then quit with your child, or show them that you are quitting. If you have quit, then share how hard it was. If you refuse to quit, then your child will most likely use this against you and continue to smoke or vape. That, “and look where it got me,” line might not work on this one.
9. Give them alternatives. Vaping is a way your teen is using to cope with the many many many stressors of adolescence. Acknowledge that they are stressed, and this is one way they are dealing with that stress. Educate them that sometimes we deal with stress in unhealthy ways, such as vaping or self-harm. They might not even see it as a coping mechanism. Give them alternatives such as chewing on something to transition the oral fixation or going for a walk or working out. If you think your teenager is already vaping contact a mental health professional that can help them develop healthier alternatives.
10. Keep the conversation going. Unfortunately, this is not just a onetime conversation. There is a balance between bringing it up every day and bringing it up once a year. Find that balance. When the time seems right, bring it up.
Again, this is an issue we often see in our office. If your child is vaping, we are happy to help you learn how to set limits with your child as well as help your child explore their choices. Give us a call.