ASK ALICE — Advice for All
Building Trust with Your Teen
My husband and I have two daughters, ages 10 and 13. Our older one seems to have fully entered adolescence, and we aren’t ready. In the past she was very close to all of us, but this year she has been spending more time with her friends, not sharing much about her life, being secretive at times.
I recently read a news report about a troubling product, the Juul, an e-cigarette that is basically a nicotine-delivery system. I asked our daughter about it and she acknowledged that many of her friends have been using it. She said she has not.
Our daughter was the target of bullying when she was in elementary school and my worry is that she may fear rejection if she doesn’t vape along with her friends. To add to this, my husband has had problems with alcohol in the past, but he has been successfully dealing with it. We have never shared this with our children.
Thinking of our daughter being exposed to an addictive drug is especially frightening to us. Can you help us with our concerns?
Many parents are concerned about Juuling, which has become especially tempting to young people because it has many different sweetly flavored cartridges that contain the amount of nicotine of a pack of cigarettes. Even though the Juul does not have many of the dangerous compounds inhaled when one smokes a cigarette, nicotine itself has many serious health issues. The Center for Disease Control warns that vaping may expose users to cancer-causing chemicals. A respiratory condition has also been recognized from the flavored vaping liquid, and nicotine is dangerous and highly addictive. In addition, Juuling can easily lead to cigarette use.
Your first responsibility is to talk with your daughter about this alarming trend. She may be drawn to the appeal of its sleek appearance (it looks like a thumb drive, and its battery can be charged by inserting it in the USB port of a laptop computer in school). She may be under the illusion that it is a safe alternative to smoking. Both you and your husband should let her know about her father’s struggle with alcohol addiction. Having your husband discuss his problem will hopefully encourage her to talk openly about any of her concerns. Hearing about his struggle may help your daughter be humbled by the difficulties of addiction. Your husband’s experience lends credence to your concerns about her beginning to vape, and it is likely to enable the conversation to have more significance to her.
Your daughter’s social problems in her younger years may make her more vulnerable to saying no to a group activity. Talk with her about this as well, reminding her that she overcame her past situation in school and found a way to recreate how she was viewed by her friends.
I recommend you read a first-rate article by Katie Hurley in Real Simple (April 3, 2018), entitled “What to Do If You Suspect Your Teen is Juuling”.. Hurley suggests that parents resist the urge to freak out, ask questions, and listen to what your teen says, don’t pretend to have all the answers, discuss the health hazard of Juuling, share your concerns with your teen, and keep your emotions in check if you discover your child is Juuling. The main point is to build trust with your teen, so that she respects your position and doesn’t resist your efforts as she might if you were to be angry or accusatory.
Raising a teenager brings many challenges. Listening to your daughter and being respectful will greatly improve your communication. Keep talking to one another. Be sure to make mealtime non-confrontational. It needs to be a safe and reliable time to address concerns, review ways of dealing with difficulties, and acknowledge successes on a very regular basis.