Talking to Your Teen About Vaping

Illinois PTA has highlighted the issues surrounding vaping and teens for many years and continues to focus on the issue in alignment with our 2018 resolution on Electronic Nicotine Delivery Systems (ENDS). We’ve also highlighted National Public Radio’s (NPR) partnership with Sesame Workshop that created their Parenting: Difficult Conversations podcast, a part of NPR’s Life Kit. Now, NPR has an article on how to talk to your teen about vaping.

Unlike cigarettes, vape pens often look like USB drives, are easy to conceal, and don’t leave a lingering odor on their clothes. As more than 1,000 cases of illness and several deaths have been linked to vaping, parents are becoming increasingly concerned about whether their child is vaping. The article from NPR focuses on seven key points when talking with your child about vaping.

  • Explain the health risks, because some kids don’t know
  • Highlight vaping’s ties to Big Tobacco
  • Establish open dialog
  • Help your kid practice saying, “No”
  • Teach, don’t preach
  • Go easy on yourself: You’re not a bad parent if your kid vapes
  • Get smart, and get help

The NPR article digs into each of these points with suggestions on how to initiate and continue a conversation with your child about vaping.

Photo © 2016 by Mylesclark96 under Creative Commons license.

Surviving the Holiday Family Gathering

The holidays are a busy, bustling time filled with activities and traditions. With school on break, traveling as a family or having family travel to you, and all the other out-of-the-ordinary things that come with the holidays can sometimes make things stressful for parents, kids, and especially kids with sensory issues or other special needs. The Child Mind Institute has some suggestions to help all kids and parents enjoy the family gatherings over the holidays.

Among the tips in the article are:

  • Minimize conflict over behavior: Make sure your kids know what the house rules are at grandma’s house or wherever you’re heading over the holidays in advance.
  • Talk to your hosts early: Just like you’d discuss your child’s peanut allergy in advance with your host, don’t hesitate to discuss other needs your child may have. No one needs to comment on your body-conscious teen taking seconds or share their opinion that ADHD isn’t a thing.
  • Plan ahead for some peace and quiet: The holidays are full of stimulation, so if you have a child sensitive to crowds and noise or who is simply an introvert, make sure there’s a place where they can take a break that’s quiet and gives them time to recover.
  • Discuss social expectations: Different kids have different needs, and you need to communicate those with your family in advance. If you have a touch-sensitive kid, make sure your family knows that your child should not be forced to participate in “mandatory” hugs and kisses. Also discuss with your child about their social expectations as well, such as making an effort to get along with cousins that are only seen every year or two.
  • Think about the menu: If you have a picky eater and know that the menu where you’re heading is likely to be a problem, consider bringing something your child will eat with you. Encourage them to try new foods, but reassure them that they won’t go hungry.
  • Manage your expectations: Holiday gatherings tend to naturally lean more towards what we saw in Christmas Vacation than in a Norman Rockwell painting. Don’t expect the perfect holiday. Focus on a couple of things you’d like your children to get out of the holidays—a memory of doing something special as a family, perhaps—and focus on achieving that.

For more on these and other points, check out the full article at the Child Mind Institute.

Illinois PTA Supports Governor’s End to Seclusion

Illinois PTA strongly supports Governor JB Pritzker’s decision to end seclusion of students by schools. The move comes following a ProPublica Illinois investigation in conjunction with the Chicago Tribune into the use of restraint and seclusion in Illinois public schools. The investigation documented more than 20,000 incidents from the 2017-2018 school year and through early December 2018, a significant fraction of which did not meet the legal requirement of a student posing a safety threat to themselves or others.

Illinois PTA has advocated for limiting the use of restraint and seclusion in accordance with the 2015 National PTA resolution on the issue. Restraint and seclusion are most often used on students with special needs, and as documented by ProPublica Illinois, are often used in situations where student safety is not a concern (e.g., spilling milk, swearing, or refusing to do classwork). Parents are often told little or nothing about what has happened to their child.

The trauma associated with the use of restraint and seclusion can have lasting effects on children. In 2012, the US Department of Education noted that secluding students was dangerous and that there was no evidence showing it was effective in reducing problematic behaviors. Far too often, restraint and seclusion are illegally used as disciplinary tools, not for student safety. In some instances, improper use of restraint and seclusion has resulted in the death of a student.

In accordance with the governor’s directive, the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) has announced emergency action to immediately end the use of restraint and seclusion in Illinois schools. Illinois PTA supports this emergency action and is prepared to work with ISBE, the governor’s office, and the General Assembly to education families on this issue and support legislation to end the practice of restraint and seclusion.

US Secret Service Report on School Shootings

Columbine High School. Sandy Hook Elementary. Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. The names are etched in our memories for reasons that no school wants to be remembered. Even as this post was being written, news broke of another school shooting in Santa Clarita, California. A new report by the US Secret Service has studied these and other school shootings, providing an unprecedented base of facts about school shootings and guidelines for preventing them.

The new report strengthens the conclusions of a 2002 Secret Service report—that there is no consistent “profile” of school shooters and that threat assessment and intervention are key to preventing shootings. The one consistent thread through all of the school shootings studied in the report is that every single shooter experienced extreme stress in their relationships with classmates within six months of their attack, and half had stressors in the two days before their attack.

Here are some key conclusions of the report:

  • There is no profile of school shooters or the type of school where the shooting occurred.
  • There are usually multiple motives for a shooting, the most common being grievances with classmates and school staff and issues with romantic partners.
  • Most attackers used firearms, and those firearms were most often acquired in their own home.
  • Nearly every attacker experienced negative home life factors (e.g., divorced or separated parents, drug use or criminal charges among family members, or domestic abuse). The report specifically notes that these are not predictors of school violence.
  • Most attackers were victims of bullying, and that bullying was often observed by others.
  • All attackers exhibited concerning behaviors, and most communicated their intent to attack. The report notes that in many cases, someone observed a threatening communication or behavior but did not act, either out of fear, not believing the attacker, misjudging the immediacy or location, or believing they had dissuaded the attacker.

What Parents and PTAs Can Do

The report notes that preventing school violence is the responsibility of everyone—federal, state, and local governments; school boards, administrators, and teachers; law enforcement; and families and the public. Here are some things that families and PTAs can do help prevent school violence.

  • Host a PTA Connect for Respect program to help your school develop effective ways to prevent bullying and to create a positive school environment.
  • If you have firearms in your home, ensure that they are kept secure in a manner so that your child cannot access them. This is also a critical factor in preventing youth suicides.
  • Talk with your child about the importance of sharing their concerns with a teacher, parents, or school counselor about another student who may be experiencing difficulties or being bullied, who has shown an interest in violent topics, or who has mentioned suicide or violence.