Prep for Parenting Your Modern Family

Posted on February 11th, 2019, 0 Comments

What You and Your Teen Need to Know About JUULing

Five years ago “vaping” was picked by Oxford Dictionary as its word of the year. If they were picking today, they would probably go with “JUULing” (pronounced jeweling) – coined from the vape device called JUUL.

JUUL’s popularity with teens helped turn this noun into a verb (just like years ago Xerox verbed into Xeroxing and Google into Googling). In fact, JUUL’s use has become so common that it accumulated a majority of the e-cigarette market in just two years.

This explosive growth has left many of us moms scrambling to learn about the risks, what to look for, and how to talk with our teens about it. To help you catch-up, here are a handful of facts you should know about JUUL:

1) There has been a startling increase in teen use of vaping devices in the past year. Over 37% of 12th graders report vaping in the last 12 months while over 20% report vaping nicotine in the 30 days prior to the survey. Vaping among younger teens is rising at record rates too. And many teen e-cigarette users don’t realize they are consuming nicotine when they vape. In fact, most teen users think they vaped only flavoring – not nicotine – the last time they used a product.¹

2) One JUUL pod contains about as much nicotine as a pack of cigarettes. A $49.99 starter kit contains a JUUL device, charging dock, and four nicotine JUUL pods. Although most young users surveyed said they were unaware that JUUL products always contain nicotine, each liquid filled pod contains about the same amount of nicotine as a pack of cigarettes (or about 200 puffs).²

Not only is nicotine highly addictive, nicotine exposure in teens is especially worrisome due to the fact that their brains are going through massive changes. Nicotine use may rewire teens’ brains, making it easier to become addicted to other substances and adding to problems with memory, concentration, and impulse control.

3) The slender JUUL is easy to hide. It looks like a thumb drive and can be charged in a USB port. It comes in a variety of sweet and fruity flavors. Although it does not produce a strong odor, take note if you catch a whiff of mint, mango or another flavor where there doesn’t appear to be a source.

4) Most teens who ever used JUUL say they tried it because their friends use it. The appealing variety of sweet and fruity flavors – such as mango, fruit medley, and crème brulee – was a close second most popular reason given by high school and middle school users.²

Most kids start vaping out of curiosity, the flavors, and wanting to fit in. However, overtime, it can become a habit. This is especially true if it is used to relieve anxiety or feeling down. Some kids become addicted to nicotine and continue to vape to avoid withdrawal symptoms.

5) Teens are getting JUUL at stores, from friends, and online. Although, by law, teens are not allowed to buy tobacco products, they’re still managing to get it. A recent national sample of 12-17 year olds found that nearly three quarters of teens were getting JUUL from a store or outlet. A little more than half said they got it from a friend or family member. While only 6 percent of teens purchased it online, all who tried to obtain it online were successful.²

Try This
Once you are equipped with some facts, look for opportunities to discuss vaping with your teen. Below are some tips to help get the discussion started.

Have conversations rather than lecture. These may be sparked by an advertisement, seeing someone creating a vape cloud, or even a letter sent from school about vaping policies. Begin by asking an open-ended question such as “What do you think about vaping?” and “Why do you think kids vape?”

As you listen, remember that acknowledging your teen’s right to have an opinion that differs from yours, is not that same thing as agreeing with their perspective or condoning unacceptable behavior. And don’t assume that all the outrageous things your teen says are what they really think. Our teens often use us as sounding boards. By challenging us they get new ideas and insights into what we believe and what we value as they decide which of these to take as their own.

Try to really listen to understand why. Often when we hear things we don’t agree with or don’t like, we stop really listening and instead simply wait to make our own points. But if your teen is vaping, your best way to safeguard their health is to understand why by asking questions like “How does vaping make you feel?” and “What do you like about it?”

Answers to these questions can help you determine whether they’re experimenting because they’re curious or bored, using regularly to stave off sadness and anxiety, or whether they’re using to try to feel normal because they have become addicted. Knowing why they are using underscores your teen’s needs. And with that knowledge, you can help them find healthier ways to deal with their needs.

Talk about your concerns and expectations. Share your concerns about the risks – concerns about nicotine, about the heavy metals and chemicals that are in the electronic cigarette liquid (with or without nicotine), unknown health risks, as well as the severe facial and leg burns linked to e-cigarette explosions.

Be clear about what you expect. When our messages are vague, it’s easier for our teens to ignore what we say. And if you set consequences, be sure to follow through. Because when our consequences are unpredictable, our teens themselves may become uncertain of how they want to behave.

In addition to talking about the risks, also talk about why teens might want to vape.
– If your teen is tempted by the novelty and rush that comes from trying something new, look for other, healthier ways for them to meet that need. For my son it meant helping him purchase a mountain bike so that he could ride the steep trails in the foothills near our North Carolina home.

– If you learn your teen is using to feel better or because they’ve become addicted, you’ll want to seek professional advice.

If you have a younger teen, role-play how to refuse. Sooner of later, most teens are likely to be in a situation where they will be offered an opportunity to try a flavor or see how big of a cloud they can blow. Discuss potential dilemmas and help your teen think of ways to handle them. Together come up with words that feel right to them and that they can say naturally. And coach them on using direct eye contact with confident body language.

Bottom Line
Keeping up with all the risks, having conversations, setting limits, meting out appropriate consequences, and generally looking out for the well-being of teens is hard work. And, by nature, teens usually don’t think they need their parents’ advice or help.

But rest assured, you and your beliefs and values matter deeply to your teen. They will almost never tell you this – at least not directly. But it’s still true.

Sources and Resources
¹Adolescent Drug Trends in 2018

² Truth Initiative: Latest Research

Behind the Explosive Growth of JUUL

Vaping, JUULing and e-cigarettes: What teens and parents need to know

How To Talk With Your Kids About Vaping

6 Important Facts About JUUL


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Prep for Parenting Your Modern Family

Posted on October 15th, 2018, 0 Comments

How to Talk to Your Teen About the Kavanaugh Story

Across the nation people are talking about Christine Blasey Ford’s accusation that Judge Brett Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her when they were both adolescents. Teens are joining the heated debate. But what are they learning from all of this?

Below are some pointers for turning this news story into a teachable moment.

Try This
Ask questions and listen. Ask your teen if their friends and teachers are talking about the Kavanaugh story. Ask them why they think this story is such a big deal. Ask what they believe about the two sides of the debate. And encourage them to use evidence to justify their opinions. This shows them that you value their point of view and opens the way for a bigger conversation.

Talk about caring for their friends. Discussing how your teen can be a good friend to someone who has been sexually assaulted helps move the conversation into their real life and lets you begin to talk about details they may otherwise not be open to talking about.

Discuss the deep emotional impact of sexual assault. Several factors affect the impact of sexual assault – including the circumstances of the assault, the relationship of the two people, and the history and psychological makeup of the individual. But the emotional impact of being sexually assaulted is deep. It can lead to intensified fear and anxiety. It can also cause self-blaming, shame, depression, and difficulty trusting others.

Talk about why it can be especially difficult for teens to report an assault. The fact that the victim usually knows the perpetrator means that a teen who has been assaulted may be afraid that they will be smeared by the perpetrator’s friends or excluded by their social circle. In addition, our culture’s history of victim blaming means that teens who have been assaulted may worry that they will be accused of making things up or being the one who did something wrong.

Make sure your teen knows that their strong support for a friend who has been assaulted can help alleviate this added worry and pain.

Role play to give your teen tools. If our teens see someone being pressured into any kind of sexual contact, we want them to have the tools to try to intervene – either directly or, if that is too risky, by distracting the potential perpetrator. So anticipate potential dilemmas and help your teen think of solutions. Together come up with words that feel right to them and that they can say naturally.

Talk directly about sexual assault.
Talk about safety. Talk about how to recognize factors like isolation or drunkenness that can raise the risk of sexual assault. And talk about how they can trust their instincts when they feel things are going wrong.

Discuss respect and caring. Our teens – especially our boys – need to hear us say that all sexual activity should involve mutual respect and caring. This means it’s not okay to pressure someone into having any kind of sexual contact. And that sex should never be about conquest.

Emphasize the importance of consent. Our teens need to know that sexual assault by definition is any unwanted sexual contact. This means they must give and get permission to initiate anything sexual. And it means that permission involves someone clearly saying that they want to engage in sexual activity. “No” doesn’t mean “yes.” And neither does silence.

These books can help teens understand the importance of consent.

Be prepared to support your teen. We want our teens to see us as someone they can trust enough to disclose painful things. Yet, having a child tell us that they have been sexually assaulted is excruciating. And realizing that it will upset their parents is why some children never tell them.

Avoid blaming. Sometimes, while dealing with our own runaway emotions, we parents inadvertently make our teens feel they’re to blame by saying things like, “You should have known better than to stay at that party!” or “We’ve talked about the risks of drinking!” or “Why didn’t you tell me sooner?!”

If your teen tells you that they’ve been sexually assaulted, the most important thing you can do is to be nonjudgmental. Don’t ask why they were in that place or why they didn’t tell you right away or lecture them about the risks.

Be supportive rather than controlling. Seek to offer guidance rather than take over the controls. Because part of your teen’s healing process is to regain the sense of control they lost in the assault.

Let them know they are not alone. Assure your teen that it was not their fault. Tell them that you’re really sorry that this happened to them, that you are glad that they told you, and that you will help them in anyway you can. In addition, remind them that there are others trained to help with healing from the experience.

Click here for more on how to support your teen.

Bottom Line
We need to have these conversations with our teens even when they make us uncomfortable. Because we parents are our children’s most important teachers about sex and safety. And teens often say that we parents are their preferred source of information on these subjects.

Sources and Resources
About the National Sexual Assault Hotline

Books to Help Teens Understand the Importance of Consent

Making Campuses Safer by Lea Winerman in Monitor on Psychology, Oct. 2018

Seven Ways to Help a Teen Survivor of Sexual Assault

Tips for Talking with Survivors of Sexual Assault

Why Sexual Assaults Go Unreported by Elizabeth Bernstein in The Wall Street Journal (Oct. 1, 2018)

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