I just saw an ad claiming that vaping is a safe way to quit using cigarettes. However, vaping is not a sure fire solution to quitting and has it’s own dangers. Recently we’ve seen some very scary illness, and even deaths, related to vaping. And, it’s not enough to teach our kids about the dangers when our kids are the direct targets of marketing for e-cigarettes, including the fun flavors offered.
Teens and tweens are excellent risk takers and it’s part of the magic of adolescence. We want them to try new things and go boldly into the unknown because this is part of their development and how they will learn. And, because of this excitement for adventure, they are understandably interested in experimentation, including with vaping. So it is our job to help educate them and send them toward their next experiment with information.
In the case of vaping and e cigarettes, while the research is still coming in, it is increasingly clear that there are serious health concerns associated with them. Still, while we need to share the risks and dangerous, we also need to share our hopes and concerns. The constant list of risks can become deafening. Try having a positive conversation about what you wish for your child and let the fears come up naturally. For example:
Do you know what I want most for you in this world?
Where do you see yourself 5 years from now?
The best lesson I ever learned when I took a risk was…
What do you think most concerns me about your safety?
Be clear about your expectations and also be open to your child’s concerns and perspective. Refraining from the use of vaping and e cigarette products is the simplest and safest option of all for adolescents whose brains are still developing, but not every child will be able to say no to everything at every opportunity. We need to be realistic in our expectations, and to know that teens and tweens will be tempted many times in many ways. Vaping is just one more temptation and talking about it in the open will help them to come to their own conclusions.
Remember that decision-making is hard and that coming to good decisions consistently is a process. If you tell your child to simply “say no,” you are not arming him or her for a time when he/she might be tempted to say yes. Try role playing and reserving judgment. Don’t be afraid to share personal experiences as they may relate to cigarettes, alcohol, or drugs - and most importantly, let them know you’re there for them and will stand by them as they face potentially scary consequences.
For more on this topic, listen to Parenting Beyond the Headlines. In our most recent episode, we spoke with Stan Glantz, Professor of Medicine and Director of the UCSF Center for Tobacco Control Research and Education.