Whether you realize it or not, as a parent you have a powerful influence over the actions and behaviors of your kids. One of the best ways to prevent negative behaviors in kids and teens is by having regular honest and open conversations. This holds true when it comes to substance use including e-cigarette products.
But how exactly do you approach the conversation around vaping? Knowing what to say, how to act, and the ways in which you can keep the conversation ongoing can help reduce the likelihood that your child starts using e-cigarettes. That’s why we’ve put together this comprehensive, step-by-step guide educating you on the best ways to talk to your kids about vaping.
Step One: Educate Yourself About the E-cigarettes and Vaping
You can’t help anyone if you aren’t educated on the topic you’re addressing, so the first step is to get educated. Take time to do your research about popular e-cigarette brands on the market, what they look like, and how they are used. While these trends change regularly, some of the most common brands include Juul, Puff Bar, VUSE, SMOK, and ElfBar.
Most of these brands feature single-use, disposable e-cigarettes that are sold in bright colors with fruity or desert-themed flavors. Many young people start vaping due to curiosity surrounding their friends who vape, the attractive packaging, and tasty flavor options. However, few young people are truly aware of the dangers of vaping, and many consider it to be a safe alternative to cigarette smoking.
In reality, vaping is still new, and we don’t yet know the long-term effects. However, we do know that e-cigarettes contain nicotine, which is addictive, and that inhaling any type of smoke or vapor can irritate the lungs and increase the risk of certain health conditions. Before you sit down to have a conversation with your child, take time to learn about the ways in which vaping can affect a person’s health. You’ll be more prepared to answer your child’s questions and engage in a productive conversation.
Step Two: Prepare Yourself
Next, you need to mentally prepare yourself for the conversation. You should do this by trying to put yourself in your kid’s shoes. Try to remember what it was like when you were young and the first time you smoked a cigarette or tried drugs or alcohol. Also, take time to consider how social norms have changed and imagine the obstacles and social pressures your teen may be facing. Try to find a way to relate your personal experience with theirs.
Another great way to prepare yourself is to lead by example. If you smoke or vape around your kids, you can’t expect them to take you seriously during the conversation. Instead, they may view the conversation as hypocritical, and be less likely to listen to what you have to say. As a result, if you’re an e-cigarette user or smoker, you need to start taking steps to quit. If you are quitting, make your intentions clear to your kids, explain why you’re quitting, and show them that quitting is possible.
Step Three: Start The Conversation
Rather than confronting your child with the intimidating phrase, “we need to talk,” try to start the conversation organically. There are many ways to start the conversation about vaping in an organic manner. If you see their friends vaping, bring it up casually, and ask when their friends started vaping and why. If you see someone vaping on the TV or in the media, use this as an opportunity to introduce the topic. Driving by a vape store or seeing an e-cigarette advertisement are other great times to start the conversation.
Regardless of how you start the conversation, you want to take an open and calm approach. You want to avoid judgment, lecturing, or frustration. You should watch your tone to ensure it remains positive and that you don’t react in a defensive manner. Reassure your kids that they aren’t in trouble nor do you want to punish them, but you do want to make sure they are aware of the risks. Remember, you aren’t trying to lecture them–you’re trying to have a conversation. Ask open-ended questions and wrap the conversation up if your kid starts feeling uncomfortable. At the same time, be prepared to answer any questions your child may ask, no matter how difficult.
If you have experience with vaping or using any type of substance, consider sharing that experience with your kids or teens. Using your own experience will demonstrate your ability to relate to them and it will take some of the pressure off of the conversation.
Step Four: Establish Defined Expectations
Express exactly why you’re having this conversation and emphasize the fact that you don’t want your child using e-cigarettes no matter the reason. Discuss possible scenarios during which your child may be offered an e-cigarette and teach them healthy refusal strategies. Then, agree upon a consequence that will occur if your child chooses to vape.
Be sure to encourage healthier hobbies and choices that your kid can engage in, such as sports, volunteering, or something else they are interested in.
Step Five: Keep the Conversation Going
Unfortunately, a one-off conversation about the dangers of vaping isn’t enough to prevent your child from picking up the habit. Instead, it’s helpful to keep the conversation going. Share facts and resources when you come across them. Discuss e-cigarette-related news articles or new science when they are published. You can even make private, light-hearted jokes about how “uncool” vaping is when you see someone doing it on the streets or in public.
Your child may be unlikely to engage in the initial conversation you start, but if you keep going in a casual manner, they may begin to see the importance of what you are saying. They’ll also be more inclined to talk to you about vaping later down the line.
The Final Step: Offer Your Continued Support and Understanding
Kids will be kids, and that means they are bound to make mistakes. Even if you practice all of the prevention methods in the world, there is still a chance your child will start vaping. However, they will be more likely to be honest with you about it and go to you for help quitting if you are always offering your support, compassion, and understanding.
Passing judgment or shaming your kid will only cause them to shut down and be less likely to come to you for help in the future. They may even stop trusting you completely. As a result, it is critical that you reassure your child that no matter what happens, you love and support them, and you’re always there to help.