How To React If You Catch Your Teen Vaping

OH NO OH NO OH NO!!!!

Alright, so maybe it’s tempting to react that way. But is it productive?

Parental anxieties are often fuelled by worst case scenarios. 

It’s easy to get wrapped up in the stories filling our news feeds of teens off the edge, and vaping as a gateway into all sorts of dangerous and unsavoury behavior. 

It’s also easy to be totally blazé about it all. 

Vaping? So what! Who cares! It’s better than smoking, right?

Actually…..

Here’s where we need to balance the science and medical evidence and also find a reassuring outlook. 

Vaping is harmful. Perhaps not in the “they will get addicted and fall off the rails” kind of dangerous. 

But in the “oh wow that’s actually physically harmful” kind of dangerous. 

So, “Uh oh!” is totally reasonable. Now, the hard part: Doing something about it. 

The past few weeks we’ve been exploring tweens, teens and substances. It’s a complicated world!! 

You aren’t sure when to step in, when to step back, what to look out for, what to be concerned about, what is “normal? and what is super problematic, and how to teach your kid to make wise decisions when frankly, they just wanna pull away and do their own thing and live a little. 

Yup – happy developmental milestones of self-exploration, experimentation, and boundary pushing!

It doesn’t mean they are doomed if they tried something out that you really don’t like. 

In fact, sometimes it’s the experience that teaches them the most about who and what they don’t want to do and be!

But, they still really really need your guidance because they don’t yet know how to assess the implications of their actions and they are receiving a LOT of mixed information. 

Especially with regards to vaping!

They heard it was so much safer than cigarettes. They heard it was virtually harm- free. They heard you can’t get addicted like with nicotine. They also heard about those teens that got really sick and had lung problems. But then they heard that was just a sensational news story. 

I mean they heard all this through their friends and social media and school yard talk, so…where is their information coming from?

Your role is to help them weed through that information so they know what to trust. 

And yes, your role is also to help them see when their health may be at risk, even if they don’t want to hear it from you. 

We need to understand WHY teens are vaping. 

Meet Jen Donovan! Next week, we’re hosting a virtual workshop that will have the answers. Our expert, Jen, is going to explain to you why teens are vaping, who is most likely to be vaping, and will also offer you insights into the current climate around substances, alcohol and teens. 

In the meantime – whether you just found out your teen is vaping, or you aren’t sure, we know there are some things you just shouldn’t say to a tween or teen if you want them to open up and let you in on what’s going on for them. 

The first one is: 

“Let’s Talk”

Yup! Nothing shuts down a conversation faster than those two words. Why? Because we know that it is code for “we have to discuss something awkward, uncomfortable, unpleasant, embarrassing, heartbreaking, miserable, or you’re about to be in trouble”. 

This immediately shuts down the other person and places them in defensive self-protection mode. There is no trust, vulnerability, or openness. 

That is not exactly conducive to a productive conversation or a strong bond. 

The second phrase is: 

“sooooooo, tell me, what’s going on in your life”

Gross. 

The “best friend” or buddy-buddy vibe doesn’t make your tweens or teens feel safe and respected. They see it as a tactic that you’re going to use to ferret out information to trap them.

Of course, I get that your goal was to just enjoy a conversation with them by taking a jovial tone. The desire to sound less “formal” or “parental” is understandable. 

But interestingly, as much as teens don’t want to be parented right now, they actually do still crave your parental authority. What I mean by that is they feel safe and comforted by the knowledge that they have someone guiding them. That they don’t have to be the adult. 

They may not want to listen to you, but they know they are safe having your boundaries in place. It allows them to be the kid, who can explore the world.

Instead, try some of these more effective strategies to get them to open up.

But you don’t have to wait until you have an open and flowing line of communication to step up for your teen and help them understand the effects of vaping. And when it comes to their health, waiting is not recommended. 

The bottom line is this: The landscape teens have to navigate when it comes to experimenting with alcohol & drugs is starkly different than it was when we were growing up. That means it requires a starkly different response from us. 

  • Do you struggle to talk to them about substance use because you don’t know how to start?
  • Are you worried they’ll start exploring substances and you’ll miss the signs?
  • Or maybe you know they’re already experimenting and you don’t know how to react?

If you want answers on these questions and more, we invite you to join our next live workshop