Before I start, let me tell you about me. I am a mom. I am actually a mom and a dad. I am a single parent. That being said, I am pretty weathered-I’m not going to lie. I have had to pull the weight of raising my three children for most of their lives. They are all grown now and I feel my job as both parents turned out to be the best it could be. It wasn’t easy and there were many times I wanted someone else to take the reins. Oh, the thought…. the relief of someone else being there to discipline, teach manners, rules, morals, talk, cook, clean, read, help with homework, pick up the aftermath of flu, to name a few. The weight of a parenting is a heavy one. It can test every fiber of one’s thought and will. The parenting gig will make you acquire wrinkles, lose sleep and earn every gray hair on your head. Toddler years to teenage years to being young adults…And, now that they are grown, weirdly enough, I miss every second of raising them. Honestly, I would do it all over again. It was a fleeting moment on the large scale of things and I miss it. All of it.
Working for the Breast Cancer Family Foundation has filled a small void in filling that parental role. Kind of. I now go into schools and get to talk to students about cancer and cancer prevention. My goal is to touch their hearts with stories and knowledge that reach a part of them that yearns to be a better, healthier version of themselves. I talk about the importance of nutrition and exercise and other science proven things we can do for ourselves to be healthy but I also cover other important topics such as smoking, vaping, and Juuling.
Juuling hasn’t been around very long. In fact it was brought to the US in 2007. The Juul was intended for current smokers, not for someone who has never smoked much less alone a young person. We are just hitting the tip of the iceberg on what this potentially can do to our health. As an organization, we have to stay current on the subject as we seem to have new info on the subject daily. Last year I was in an auditorium packed with a couple hundred high school students. I had asked the teachers to leave the room because I wanted to have an honest conversation with the kids. I asked the students to stand up if they had ever tried to vape or Juul. The room hummed with small chatter and the noise of every student standing. There was not a student sitting. They sat back down and we started a genuine dialogue. I heard stories of why they started or tried Juul. Most of them were doing it because their friends were. Many told me they couldn’t quit if they wanted to. This. Breaks. My. Heart.
I am not oblivious to peer pressure or the need to feel like you fit in. I get it. I was a teenager once. I had three of them. There is a line though. A line we need to draw for our children. It is a metaphor for a mutual, common place where parents and children can go daily. A place to have conversations. A place to hear about each other’s day. A place to laugh, cry, and vent. A place to listen and guide. It is a safe place that takes years to establish a growing, respectable relationship with our children. The earlier the better, however it is never too late. It is our job as parents to meet them on that line daily and talk about stuff we may not feel entirely comfortable about. It is easier to openly talk about tough topics preventively than deal with them as a current issue. Having these conversations is necessary in terms of this vaping/Juul epidemic. The repercussions of ignoring it will and is biting us in the butt. This Juul epidemic has hit us like a storm. Use is up over 75% and as a result we are seeing a new generation addicted to nicotine. Juul’s website is now offering resources and tips to help teenagers and young people quit. The CEO of Juul is apologizing to parents for the nicotine addiction. This is a real problem. We love our children and we never want to see them suffer. It is our guidance that can have an impact. We are having a growing number of kids out there suffering with nicotine addiction because of the Juul. One pod is equivalent to a pack of cigarettes. I have spoken to kids who are doing up to 10 pods a week! Those that are trying to quit may or are suffering and feeling irritable, restless or jittery. They are having headaches, increased sweating, feeling sad or down, anxious, tired and groggy. They may be having trouble thinking clearly or concentrating, having trouble sleeping, are hungrier. This is just the nicotine aspect of a Juul! Wow….if parenting a teen who isn’t going through this isn’t tough enough!
As we approach a new school year, I encourage parents to establish or strengthen that line with their children. It isn’t going to be a fun kind of conversation but it is one that hopefully will reconnect you to that child that is growing inside of that preteen/teenage body. Whether or not they would admit to needing you yet (or not), please know they do and your opinion matters. Talking to our children about loving themselves should be a frequent conversation. It starts there. It is the stone thrown, known to have that ripple effect.
Have a great school year with your kids!
Holly Fox | BCFF Community Educator