The Lies Our Children Are Told
I woke up at 3am this morning with this blog post idea. It burned inside of me. It started with the nationwide middle school epidemic of juuling, but didn’t stop there. As the ideas tumbled into my mind, I turned on my lamp and wrote the lies down.
- Juuling/vaping is safer than smoking cigarettes. It’s a scary reality that vaping companies are marketing and targeting middle schoolers. And they’ve convinced our highly impressionable kids that it’s safe. After all, there are fun (synthetic) oils of all flavors. The marijuana oil is undetectable by smell. It’s a perfect storm: peer pressure, underdeveloped frontal lobes, accessibility, and a small form factor that’s easy to hide or overlook. I’ve read many articles, one from a teen himself, which talked about the dangers of vaping, namely addiction. Each Juul cartridge—which lasts about 200 puffs—has as much nicotine as an entire pack of cigarettes. And nicotine is a highly addictive substance. A 2016 study suggested that the flavoring agents may also cause popcorn lung, a respiratory condition first seen in people working in factories that make microwave popcorn. It’s not safe, and don’t let you child think it is.
- Pot isn’t addictive. Pot IS addictive. Our kids can use it to numb themselves, and an emotional addiction forms. According to Mayo Clinic psychiatrist Michael Bostwick, for about 10 percent of young people, the drug becomes addictive. Its relaxing properties turn into a constant need. Perhaps pot is also a gateway drug to more serious ones. But I argue that pot is serious and dangerous for our children whose front lobes are not developed. They are extremely susceptible to addiction, and pot can affect their brain development. With more and more states legalizing marijuana, I think it’s important to teach our kids that pot is a drug, and is dangerous. Regardless of state laws, it is illegal for anyone under 18 years old.
- You have to be athletic to be cool. There is so much social pressure to be athletic. And just like IQ and test scores, a child has little control over it. A societal shift in mindset is needed. What is most important? For a child to feel inner joy, one that doesn’t come from the external environment. That is my hope and prayer for both of my kids. I am a big believer in team sports for community and building skills on working together. I also believe in the importance of exercise. It is brave for a child to try his/her best and show up. That’s what matters. Being hard on the child is harmful because I guarantee you, he/she is already self-conscious enough. Let’s let coaches do their jobs, and invest our time supporting one another and each other’s children.
- You are alone. There’s a darkness that creeps in and tells us we are alone. That no one has ever experienced what we are feeling. This lie keeps us silent. It keeps us scared. It makes us feel ashamed. It’s the reason why no one talks about mental illness. We are not alone, not ever. Let’s lift this shroud together. Let’s talk openly about addiction, depression, mistakes; and then support one another, and our light will shine and burn out the darkness. Our vulnerability gives others strength and courage to shine their light.
- Boring is scary. At what point did boring become something to avoid at all costs? And, when did it become a parent’s responsibility to rectify? In reality, no one likes to be bored. The minute we feel it creeping in, we reach for our devices. However, there is so much research showing how healthy it is to let our kids (and ourselves) feel bored. If we replace the idea of “boredom” with “downtime” it becomes a whole new opportunity to relax with a book, meditate, build something, draw, color (my adult friends even like coloring books), write, walk, daydream…the list is endless. Remember, we aren’t our kids’ cruise director.
- Anger isn’t normal. Anger is safe, and it’s a natural emotion. It’s not comfortable, and it can feel very scary. But I’d rather anger come out than stay stifled inside. Sometimes when anger gets out of control, we do things we might regret. When anger negatively affects those around us, it’s time to incorporate resources to help. Meditation, affirmation index cards, setting boundaries, breathing, exercise, a quiet room, talking to a trusted adult can all help. And referring to point #4, you are not alone!
- You aren’t enough…skinny enough, muscular enough, popular enough, smart enough. The list goes on and on. YOU ARE ENOUGH. You are perfectly imperfect. When the world tells us otherwise, dig in and know that you are exactly where you are supposed to me. I’ve never particularly loved my body, but I sure love the 20, even 35-year old version of it! Especially during the awkward middle school years when nothing feels normal inside, and our own feelings confuse us. Remember that your body is home for your breath, your mind, and your soul and the best person to respect and protect it is you. There are a lot of non-truths, especially when it comes to sex. In particular, what we see in the media, and the lie that sex is only intercourse. We can teach, but more importantly, model the art of being gentle with ourselves, respecting our bodies, and learning the art of self-care.
So, mamas, together, let’s talk to our kids and take the power away from these lies by speaking the truth into them.
Juling and vaping are dangerous; pot is an addictive drug; You are cool being YOU and showing up is the bravest thing you can do; you are never alone; downtime is healthy and together we can create a list of things you love to do for times you’re feeling bored; Anger – and any emotion – is safe and normal.