If he's Juuling, punishing your teen won’t solve the problem. Here's what to do instead, according to a licensed child and adolescent therapist.

By Katie Hurley, LCSW
Vladislav Perfilev / EyeEm/Getty Images

While middle school bathrooms have long been a hot spot for bullying and other secretive behavior, there’s a new threat lurking in the restrooms of our schools and keeping parents and teachers up at night: Juuling. Teens see the vaping trend as cool, harmless fun, and the pressure to try it is intense.

The Juul device, which is popular with teens partly because of its discreet design (it resembles a flash drive), is intended as a smoking alternative for adult cigarette smokers. However, with flavors like crème brulee, fruit medley, and mango, it’s no wonder Juuling draws a young audience. Juul has the added benefit of producing a smaller plume than other e-cigarettes, making it easy for teens to exhale into their sleeves and avoid getting caught.

Each Juulpod is approximately the equivalent of one pack of cigarettes and Juul does not currently offer nicotine-free flavors. While similar products on the market do offer vape juice without the added nicotine, Juul does not.

RELATED: Teens Are 'Juuling' At School. Here's What That Means

While your child's school wages war on vaping inside their walls, you may wonder how you can stop your kids from trying it. Given that Juulpods are good for 200 puffs, even teens with restricted access to purchasing the devices can easily share with friends who have one. And here's the thing: Warning your kids, and threatening them with punishments if they try Juuling, won’t make this problem disappear anytime soon. Instead, it’s essential that you talk openly and honestly with your kids about Juuling and vaping. Here's how.

1. Resist the urge to freak out.

Teens respond to the emotional cues of their parents. If you begin a conversation in an angry, anxious, or accusatory manner, your teen is likely to respond by either shutting down or blowing up. These are difficult conversations to have and it’s perfectly natural for parents to feel anxious or overwhelmed by the subject matter, particularly if this is the first you’re hearing of it.

2. Ask questions and listen to what your teen says.

Keep your questions open-ended, since the goal is to find out what your teen knows about Juuling and vaping. You might say, “I just read an article about e-cigarettes that said Juul actually contains nicotine. Why are kids your age so into it?” Or, “Are the flavors really that great?” gives her an opening to say, “I tried it and thought it was gross,” or “I tried it and I thought it was cool.” You might get an eye roll or a sarcastic laugh about your apparent lack of knowledge, but this also gives your teen the opportunity to tell you about it. Take the time to listen—really listen—and avoid asking yes or no questions.

3. Don't pretend to have all the answers.

Instead of blurting out the latest headlines on the matter, it’s better to admit what you do and don't know. "Honest dialogue is the best way to keep conversation about addiction open and flowing,” says Jessica Lahey, New York Times bestselling author of The Gift of Failure. Additionally, being honest with your kids encourages them to be honest with you. “Studies show that kids who are lied to by their parents are, in turn, more likely to lie to their parents,” she adds.

4. Discuss the health hazards of Juuling.

Since Juuling and vaping are so new, we don't know much about the long-term effects of inhaling nicotine vapor, says Lahey. "However, research does show that e-cigarette, including Juuling and vaping, is correlated with future cigarette use among teens," she says. "We also know that nicotine is a highly addictive substance."

Empower your teen to make healthy choices by asking him to highlight the pros and cons of Juuling. While “it’s fun” and “my friends are all doing it” might seem like good reasons to start, your teen probably understands that there are some compelling reasons to stop, as well. Questions like, “How will Juuling affect your ability to keep up on the field?” or “Do your friends who use Juul complain about feeling tired a lot?” trigger your teen to consider the potential pitfalls.

5. Share your concerns with your teen.

You can’t control every move your teen makes when she’s away from home, but you can talk openly about your concerns and state clear expectations. You might say something like, “Nicotine is very addictive and I expect that you will stay away from vaping, but I also know that it’s very difficult to avoid this stuff and I am here to help you however I can.”

6. If you discover that your teen is Juuling, keep your emotions in check.

While your knee-jerk reaction might be to search her phone, shut down communication with her peers, and tear about her room in pursuit of evidence, don't. “Remember that when it comes to prying, searching, and snooping on your kids, you can never unsee the things you find or earn back the trust that’s lost,” says Lahey. “Juuling is, in the grand scheme, not terribly dangerous in and of itself, but it can lead to other habits and addictions that can be problematic. Talk to your kids about the places Juuling can lead, and then keep talking in the spirit of love, caring, and support for your children’s health and privacy.”

 

Your teen is faced with difficult choices every single day. The good news is that the more you discuss risky behaviors and acknowledge that your teens face these obstacles, the less likely your teens are to engage in these risks. Keep talking. It works.