Three Tips for Talking to Middle Schoolers About Vaping
In the past year, the number of teens who vaped increased dramatically: over 17% of eighth graders and 37% of high school seniors reported vaping in the past 12 months, and the CDC has warned of an “outbreak” of vaping-related lung injuries.
Those are troubling statistics. But we also know that parents and teachers can play a vital role in educating students and helping them make good health choices.
Earlier this month, Dr. Maureen Courtney, former Rivers science department chair, spoke to our students about vaping: what it is, why it’s a pressing health concern for teenagers, how it affects the body and brain, and what students can do if they have questions or concerns. If you are interested, you can click on the two links below to watch a portion of her talk.
Here are a few ideas that might help you, as parents, open the lines of communication about this topic—because if our children don’t have these conversations with us, other sources of information will fill the void.
1. Look for natural time to talk about it—but find the time! If you drive by a vape shop, see a story about it on TV, see a picture of someone vaping in a magazine, or hear a reference in a song or TV show, those are all openings for conversations. Look for these opportunities!
2. Ask questions—and listen to their answers: You can ask open-ended questions such as: Vaping is pretty popular these days—how do you feel about that? Why do you think teens vape? What do you know about what’s in vaping products and how they affect the brain? Have you heard about vaping-related illnesses? How would you respond if someone offered you a vaping product? Pre-teens and teens always prefer the conversation to the lecture!
As adolescent psychologist Dr. Lisa Damour wrote: “It’s not always easy to engage our teenagers about the dangers they face. But adolescents care what their parents think and take fewer risks when we keep the lines of communication open. In discussing dicey choices with adolescents, there are many ways to get it right. And one of those ways is to be sure that we are talking with, not at, them.”
3. Educate yourself: Kids need more than “Vaping is bad for you!” They need real facts from supportive, caring adults. Do you know what’s in these products and how these chemicals can affect the developing teenage brain? Do you know warning signs that a teen might be vaping? As you look for effective ways to talk with your child about this public health crisis, you might find these links helpful:
Child Mind Institute: Teen Vaping: What You Need to Know
The Surgeon General: Talk to Your Teen About E-Cigarettes: A Tip Sheet for Parents
From NPR: How to Talk to Teens About Vaping
Above all, keep the dialogue ongoing. We will bring Dr. Courtney back in the spring for a follow-up with our students because we know that a one-time discussion isn’t as “sticky” as regular, open conversation with caring adults.