My 15-year-old son is smoking e-cigarettes (vaping) and lies to me about it. He flat out denies it to my face when I ask him! I am not sure what frightens me more – his lying or his vaping. What should I do?
Let’s tackle both issues one at a time because while they are inter-related, they are very separate problems to deal with.
Let’s begin with vaping.
While I am no expert, I can tell you that part of the marketing message about vaping is that it is the ‘healthier’ option. It is targeted specifically to address the generation who were raised with smoking being verboten and practically shameful; particularly to take up smoking as a young person. But the jury is still out on the health issues related to it including the danger of ‘second hand’ vapors. Young children can ingest those chemical vapors as they cling to clothing or to your person. The fact is, nicotine IS addictive and many studies say that the vaping of nicotine will require greater frequency. Here is what Health Canada says: https://www.canada.ca/en/services/health/publications/healthy-living/talking-teen-vaping-tip-sheet-parents.html
You asked what scares you more – the vaping or the lying.
Why do children lie to their parents? Do they lie by omission or commission or by avoidance? Here are five thoughts on the matter:
They lie for privacy
They just do not want their parents to know their ‘business.’ This can be construed as a way of asserting their burgeoning desire for independence.
They lie to get out of something they don’t want to do, to cover their tracks, or to fit in with their peers
They lie to protect each other
Their peer group becomes their primary loyalty and their de-facto family.
They lie to inflate their low status or self-esteem
They lie in order not to suffer the consequences of their parents’ reactions/disappointment/punishments for doing things that they KNOW you consider to be wrong.
And in that lies the good news; that THEY KNOW WHAT YOU THINK!
It is not a ‘news flash’ to them that you want to protect them and their still-developing brains from the dangers of ingesting chemicals and nicotine. They are merely avoiding the consequences of their choice to assert themselves outside of your approval. Kids have many rebellions in the course of separation and financial autonomy. If they are lying to you about it rather than defending their position, generally that implies that they know that you are wrong to disapprove. It is vital not to take this personally. This is not an indication of poor parenting or of your not having instilled values in your child.
I suggest you say the following to your son:
“I know you are vaping nicotine and am worried that you are under the mistaken impression that they are a healthier option. Here are the latest statistics on this matter. I trust after you read this you will make appropriate decisions I can not assist you in hurting your own body. I do not want the money we give you to go to paying for something dangerous. How do you suggest I ensure that your allowance is not being used to buying smoking materials? As for lying to me about it; I would like to think that you are mature enough to own your own behaviors despite their consequences. I can not guarantee I will always support your choices, but I can assure you that our relationship will be healthier if you are honest, and I know that sometimes it is hard to be.”
I hope that this is the final stop on the teenage parenting highway of disappointments and fears my friend. But frankly, I doubt it! Teenagers are a way of understanding why some animals eat their young!!!
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