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Unlearning the Phrase “Not MY Kid”

Most often I hear this during the first few sessions I have with a given family. It comes in response to “the talk” I give all parents. It starts something like this:

Me: “In order for teens to feel safe talking to me they need to know that they have a degree of confidentiality. In light of that I offer a word of caution to all parents…Kids are vaping, both marijuana and nicotine, at alarming rates. I have to assume that your teen either already has tried vaping or will at some point. If I were to tell parents every time a teen partakes in these activities I would not be able to help…” (I go on from there)

Parent: “Oh, I’m not worried about that. We have talked about drugs and she would never…” OR “He says his group of friends is not into that kind of stuff and I believe him.”

There are several other variations but the message is the same “NOT MY KID!!”

And I get it! I look at my children’s sweet faces and I have the same thoughts! But I know better because of the sweet faces of all of YOUR children. The ones who come to my office and explain:

“Everyone is vaping in the bathroom, I didn’t want to seem like a baby”


“It helps me relax and I won’t get addicted!”

Bottom line, a phrase like “not my kid” is dangerously close to being completely pointless – especially as it relates to the smoking habits of today’s teenagers and pre-teens. And the reason why, sadly, is because it’s EVERYONE’S kids these days. Whether you chalk it up to changing societal norms, the increased economic availability of drugs, or any other causal factors, vaping and e-cigarettes are no longer the exclusive province of greasers, stoners, ne’er-do-wells, nor any other group of kids with an outdated and/or ridiculous name

The so-called “good kids” in the National Honor Society and the drama club are every bit as familiar with today’s drugs as any other clique… which means that chances are higher than you may have ever suspected that your child is either (a) already familiar with these concepts and concerns, (b) using these drugs and accessories, or (c) around other kids who are.

Given that, I try to steer parents away from thinking that it’s not their kid, and that it couldn’t possibly be their kid… and I try to speak with them instead about the importance of education about what these new drugs are, what today’s new tools are, and what the legalities involved happen to be. And then I let parents know that it’s time to have conversations with their kids shortly afterwards. The aim of that conversation shouldn’t be accusatory; the purpose should be to allow for continued conversation.

If you’re like most of the parents that I talk to, you know the stories all too well. Sometimes you catch them on that night’s local news; occasionally you read about them in the newspaper; from time to time you’ll see them on your Facebook feed or in a link your friends have passed around. Regardless, they all sound something along the lines of the following:

Teen develops ‘wet lung’ after vaping for just 3 weeks [https://wsvn.com/news/us-world/teen-develops-wet-lung-after-vaping-for-just-3-weeks/; WSVN – Channel 7 - is by far Miami’s highest rated news station]

Parents, could your teen be ‘Juuling’?” [https://www.miamiherald.com/living/health-fitness/article225046690.html; the Herald is still a more popular newspaper than the Sun Sentinel]

Parents Treating Kids With Cannabinoid Oil Could Lose Them” [https://www.thedailybeast.com/parents-treating-kids-with-cannabinoid-oil-could-lose-them]

Common E-Cigarette Chemical Flavorings May Impair Lung Function” [https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/news/press-releases/common-e-cigarette-chemical-flavorings-may-impair-lung-function/ story that alludes to “popcorn lung”]

Let’s first acknowledge that those headlines are, to varying degrees, TERRIFYING.

Now, when you see links and stories like those, your first reaction is probably some combination of “thank goodness that’s not MY concern,” followed quickly by the thought “... but COULD that happen to my kid?” A lot of us are pretty quick to answer that considerably scarier question in the negative, in large part because it’s simply the easiest thing to do. “My son is never going to get something called ‘wet lung’!” Writing those concerns off quickly and easily is simple and soothing, and so it’s somewhat to be expected that our thoughts on the matter frequently end once we’ve moved onto the next story or article.

Unfortunately, that’s not sufficient if you’re a parent – not as we’re entering the 2020s. There is active work to be done, and especially if you’re reading this post. That being said, you’re not alone – far from it, in fact. Most parents find it hard to acknowledge the possibility that one of their children might be using some type of drug or narcotic – even one that they might initially believe to be innocuous. Part of the reason why is that we want to imagine our kids living their best lives, and that dream is almost always one that is free of drugs. Adhering to that dream makes it even harder to think about the next-level question: what particular stimulants (or downers) your children might be using. And the hardest thing of all is knowing what to do about issues like these, and how to bring about positive change for you and for your family.

As for some initial resources:

The CDC has a great page that covers a number of these concepts. As you’ll see from some of the images, a lot of the devices that are used to smoke these days look like either pens or thumb drives, which is why they’re virtually indistinguishable from everyday school-specific tools that might be found in a student’s backpack, purse or wallet.


The National Institute on Drug Abuse has a page with a few helpful infographics:


The Mayo Clinic chimes in with a few notes about e-cigarettes:


Obviously, there are a ton of sites out there that can offer guidance… but I would strongly suggest that, as with anything, you limit your source materials to the most viable agencies and outlets available. If you are reading the blogpost of a 14-year old simply because it features the word “Juul” in the title, I would politely suggest that you move on to a more credible resource.

Once you feel that you’ve armed yourself a bit with a better understanding as to what e-cigarettes are, what CBD oil is, what Juuling is like, etc., it may be time to talk to your child. And while it may be rare to get your child to admit immediately to a dependency, to say nothing of a challenging situation meriting treatment or intervention, good conversations can be had by asking your child whether these issues ever come up in school:

  • Do your teachers – maybe in Health class, maybe guidance counselors,etc. – ever discuss drug use, or differentiate between some types of drugs and others? Do you ever have presentations about Juuling or anything like that?
  • Do kids talk openly about vaping and e-cigarettes? Is it treated like a big deal by those who do it, or do those kids who smoke not really care?
  • Have you ever seen anyone smoking in school, or does it usually happen when everybody is away from school?
  • Do any of your friends smoke? Do they do it a lot, or just a little bit? Where do they do it?

Often teens are unwilling to confide in their parents but are willing to talk to a therapist, teacher, doctor or other trusted adult.  It is ALWAYS ok to ask for help.  Please feel free to contact me or another trusted professional near you for help!

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