What if My Kid Thinks Vaping is OK?

Photo by  Daniel Ramos  on  Unsplash

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?

Photo by  Luke Besley  on  Unsplash

Photo by Luke Besley on Unsplash

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.

Mixed Messaging of Legalizing Marijuana

Photo by  Roberto Valdivia  on  Unsplash

Photo by Roberto Valdivia on Unsplash

The trend of legalizing recreational marijuana may be giving children and teens a mixed message about the drug. While there are many touted benefits and even use of non-addictive forms, it can affect a developing brain in ways we don’t even yet fully understand. On top of that, it can have affects on judgment and decisions.

Teens and tweens are susceptible to risk-taking and it makes sense they may want to experiment for a variety of reasons. It’s also important for them to understand the risks they are taking.

On our most recent episode of Parenting Beyond the Headlines, we talked with Jim Maffuid, Executive Director of Child Guidance Clinic for Central CT and father of 4 young adults. Jim specializes in helping families prevent, recognize and overcome addiction. Jim helped us understand some of the terminology and shared some options for talking with our kids about this complicated topic.

Why Taylor Swift's Reputation Matters

In my four-plus decades on the planet, I had never been to a pop concert. The closest thing was a Crosby Stills and Nash concert at an outdoor amphitheater back when I was in college. And, I did see Surreal Neil (a Neil Diamond impersonator) once at a bar in San Francisco. It was obviously time for me to go, and why not embrace this new adventure with my kids and finally be inducted into the hip crowd?


I wasn’t the biggest Taylor Swift fan, though I always enjoyed her songs. I first heard You Belong with Me when my niece was singing it in a video she shared with me, and my kids made fun of me as I would sing along (more like hum along) to Love Story or Blank Space in the car (coming in conveniently at the end of the chorus where I knew the words). She was a good singer, but beyond her catchy tunes, I didn’t know much about her.

During a rare weekend, when my family was all home and open to adventure, we hopped in the car, drove 13 hours, toured Louisville, KY, where we’d never been before, and attended a stadium concert of Taylor Swift’s Reputation Tour. Now I LOVE Taylor Swift and finally understand the screaming girls that populate her concerts. I was one of them. Let it be said, as I am sure it already has been, Taylor Swift puts on a FABULOUS show! She truly rocks! And I couldn’t get enough.

Before the concert, as my kids were prepping me by playing the the songs I didn’t know, I was dreading the six-sets. Ugh - it would be crowded, hot, and go on with all these songs I don’t even know. I masked my curmudgeonly attitude and, I couldn't have been more wrong. I could have danced all night! In fact, when she said goodnight, I looked over at my daughter and asked, “She’s done? It’s over?”

I was impressed with how Swift incorporated her struggle into her performance. She shared her experiences of frustration and confusion through video segments and her own live narration between songs. While I assume much of the narration was to tie sets together and to appease her audience, it felt authentic and her words reflected a truly human experience. No matter how contrived these transitions may have been, they seemed cathartic for her and informing for her audience. She talked about her pain and needing time to reflect and re-brand. When people cheered, she leaned on her fans and shared an appreciation for them in their understanding.

It was great to be there together, singing, dancing, enjoying the pyrotechnics, and the snow cones (albeit pricey at the concessions) were perfect for the hot night (still 90 degrees after sunset).

Now as we listen to the Reputation album over and over and really focus on the words, it’s started a conversation in our family about reputations, pain, friendships, public appearance, and coping strategies.

In This is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things, I didn’t understand why she laughs off “forgiveness is a nice thing to do.” After all, that part of the song sounds like it could easily have come from one of the many CDs I used to play with my toddler children. When I asked my kids, “Why is she laughing? After all, isn’t forgiveness a nice thing to do?” They each had a response.

One of my children posited that she had been hurt by someone and tried to forgive and it didn’t work out so she has to move on.

Another of my kids tried to explain to me that just because something is nice to do doesn’t mean it’s the right thing to do. We were able to explore forgiveness.

This has helped us to broach the topics so relevant to our two teens and tween. There is a struggle to find a balance between caring about what people think and doing your own thing. And what about when what someone else thinks becomes what they say behind (or in front) of your back? Then how does that affect what others think, and should you care?

It’s easy at the dinner table to simply say, “It doesn’t matter what other people think.” But while that might be an ideal and we want our kids to do the “right” thing no matter what others think, it’s simply not as simple as that.

Now I feel I have an added resource for this all-important conversation. Sometimes forgiveness isn’t the right thing to do. How can we get back on the proverbial tour and continue to do what we love, but perhaps a little differently? I’m so grateful for the shared  experience of my first pop concert and all it offered us, in the stadium and out.