As adults, helping our teens make good choices can sometimes feel like stepping into the boxing ring, facing off against the challenges that threaten their well-being. One challenge that has become more prominent in recent years is teen vaping. But just like a boxer, you can learn skills to help “knock out” teen vaping in just a few rounds.
Round 1: Knowledge is Power
In this round, you’ll rely on your knowledge of the risks of vaping during adolescence, including:
- Vaping’s harmful effects on the developing brain. Youth are uniquely at risk for long-lasting effects of exposing their developing brains to nicotine or cannabis (marijuana), like permanently lowering impulse control. Because youth build connections (synapses) faster than adult brains, nicotine alters the way these synapses form, which can harm attention, learning, and memory.
- Increased risk of addiction to nicotine or cannabis. Because the young brain is still developing, its reward system is much more vulnerable to being hijacked by things like vaping nicotine or marijuana than fully-developed adult brains. This is why 90% of Americans struggling with addiction started using drugs – like nicotine – before age 18.
- Potential for future addiction to other drugs. Vaping among youth is strongly linked to the use of other tobacco products, and there is some evidence suggesting that teens who vape are more likely to experiment with other drugs like alcohol or cannabis.
We also need to be aware of the new nicotine products that are being marketed to teens so we can keep an eye out for their ever-changing new forms. Having an understanding of why teens vape also shows us where there are opportunities to help and support our teens. Some of these reasons include influence from peers, a misunderstanding of the harmful contents of the aerosol produced by vaping, and coping with stress or anxiety. Equipped with this knowledge, you’ll be better able to help your teen understand the risks of vaping and guide them toward safe choices.
Round 2: Open & Honest Communication
Just like a boxer, teens need people in their corner who can provide strong support and guidance, and this starts with open and honest communication. Approach your teen with empathy and a willingness to listen, and know that you won’t always get everything across in one talk. Use these conversation goals to help guide you in your talks with your teen:
- Make it clear that you don’t approve of them using any vaping products. Over 80% of 10-18 year olds say their parents are their biggest influence on their decision not to use substances.
- Show teens you care about their health, safety, and success. Reinforce the reasons you expect your teen to stay vape-free – because you love them and want them to be happy, healthy, and safe. Explain to them that vaping is harmful to their developing brains and can lead to lifelong addiction.
- Be curious and open-minded about their experiences. Ask them what they think, know, or have heard about vaping. Show them that you are a good source of information if they have questions.
- Keep the conversation going. Talk often with your teen about vaping. Take advantage of opportunities when watching movies, TV, and commercials together that feature vaping. Let them know that they can come to you for help with stress, anxiety, or peer pressure.
Round 3: Strategize for Success
In boxing, strategizing for success means practicing and planning for what might happen in the ring. You can help your teen do the same by practicing and planning for the situations they might encounter in their day-to-day lives. Consider planning for things like:
- Peer pressure. Practicing how to say “no” can help teens feel more confident and comfortable resisting if a friend or peer offers them a vape.
- Daily stressors. Stress is a normal part of life, but teens need help learning how to manage it. Discuss what stressors might exist for your teen and brainstorm coping skills that can help them handle stress, such as spending time outside, getting adequate sleep, or positive self-talk. Be open to their suggestions and help them think through some ideas that will work for them.
Follow up often to see how these strategies for success are working, and help them adapt their plans as needed. Celebrate when you notice them putting these strategies into action!
Round 4: Seek Professional Help
Boxers call on professionals to help them when needed, and you can too. If you’re worried your teen might be vaping, the Partnership to End Addiction can help. There are also teen cessation resources available from The Truth Initiative’s This is Quitting program. Teens can text “BREAKFREE” to 88709 for free, confidential tips and quitting advice delivered straight to their phone to help them quit vaping. If your child is vaping to cope with anxiety or depression, reach out to their primary care doctor or a mental health professional.
By adopting a boxing mentality, we can get one step closer to knocking out teen vaping for good! For more resources and tips for keeping kids safe from teen vaping, visit our Vaping page here at ParentUpKC.com!