By Mary Ruth Branstetter, LCSW, LCAC, RPT – March 24, 2021 –

A common problem many of us experience is an inability or unwillingness to appropriately address our powerful emotions. Most of us want an outlet where we can express our feelings, but sometimes it can be a struggle to find someone who will truly listen and understand. 

I believe this is a problem for both adults and children. When we copy behaviors that we grow up with, we sometimes learn unhealthy methods of expressing how we feel.

For example, if a child is told not to cry with phrases like, “Just pull yourself up by your bootstraps,” they learn to keep important feelings bottled up.

Another example of how we learn from our surroundings might be how we cope with frustration or anger. If anger was never talked about in the home or was only displayed in an aggressive manner, those behaviors may be learned and repeated as a normal reaction to upsetting situations.

Occasionally the opposite stance may be taken such as, “I am never going to deal with feelings the way they were expressed in my home or by my role models.” This too can be unhealthy, leading to passivity and stuffing of true emotions.

Repressing feelings can only work as a coping skill for a certain amount of time before problems start to surface in your personal relationships and/or through physical and mental distress. Such distress may take the form of overeating, over-spending, depression, anxiety, repeated health problems, or self-medicating with alcohol or drugs.

Trying to teach our children healthy ways to express their feelings is becoming a critical skill. It is important to begin encouraging children to be honest about their emotions at a young age, as our children are exposed to external influences early in life.

Young children may or may not be emotionally ready to understand some of these influences in a healthy manner. For small children, this may result in some form of regression, acting out in anger or destructive ways, or development of unexplained fear.

Some of our kids are modeling what they see in social media or video games as a way to handle conflict, hurt feelings, competition, or disappointment. These forms of media may disrupt our children’s ability to learn how to carry on a conversation, resolve a conflict without aggression, read another person’s body language, or recognize basic social cues. The inability to grasp these communication skills can eventually leave a child emotionally stunted.

It is never too early or too late to ask your child about their feelings. This is a perfect time to take the opportunity to help your child process emotions in a way that helps them feel better. If you are unsure how to do this, there are many books for all age groups on feelings and healthy coping skills at local libraries, bookstores, and online.

Do not be afraid to consult with a mental health professional for guidance. This is an investment in your child’s long term emotional and mental health. The way your child learns to address their emotions now will impact the rest of their lives in terms of personal relationships, academic success, career success, physical health, and positive self-worth.

By Grace Wilson, Program Coordinator – March 17, 2021 –

I’m sure by now most parents are aware of the trendy and flavorful activity of “vaping,” but have you been able to speak with your kids about the dangers of e-cigarette (vape) products?

In order to have a productive conversation with your child about vaping, it is important that you know the facts first. While you should also do your own research, here are a few basic facts to keep in mind:

  1. E-cigarette aerosol is not harmless. E-cigarettes do not produce a harmless water vapor like many believe to be the case. This aerosol contains chemicals such as nicotine (found in most vape products), formaldehyde, and acetone. This aerosol can also affect bystanders, similar to second-hand smoke from traditional cigarettes.
  1. One of the most popular vape products is JUUL. All JUUL products contain nicotine. People have since turned the word “JUUL” into an action verb, so you may have heard the term “JUUL-ing.”
  2. There are many juice flavors people can use in their e-cigarettes, and unfortunately, they are often targeted towards kids. Flavors such as bubblegum, tropical punch, grape, strawberry, and thousands of other enticing flavors are advertised. These flavors also contain chemicals that can be harmful to the lungs when inhaled.
  3. Nicotine exposure during adolescence can harm the developing brain—which continues to develop until about the age of 25.

So how do you talk to your kids about vaping? If you follow a few simple suggestions, you can set yourself up for a meaningful and fairly easy conversation with your child.

First, as stated above, know your facts. Do your own research and understand the harmful effects of vaping before you begin. If at any time your child asks a question you do not know the answer to, be honest in your response and suggest that you research the answer together.

Find the right time to have the conversation. A more natural conversation will increase the likelihood that your child will listen. If you observe someone using e-cigarettes, see an advertisement or pass a vape shop, these situations would be a good conversation starter. The words “we need to talk” can be off-putting to a child, and they may not want to engage.

Avoid criticism and judgement, and encourage an open dialogue rather than a lecture. If your child is curious about vaping, discloses that they have tried it or have friends that vape, being critical may shut your child down and they will no longer want to talk.

It is okay to break up the conversation into smaller doses. Try to keep the conversation open. This is not a “one and done” type of conversation. If you learn something new after you have had a conversation, bring it to your child’s attention and talk about it together.

Most importantly, ask for support if you need it or have concerns that your child is vaping. Talk with your health care provider about the risks of e-cigarettes. You can also encourage your child to talk with other trusted adults to reinforce your message.

To learn more about the best strategies to address the risks of vaping with your child, check out Youth First’s video called “How to Talk to Your Child About Vaping” on our website: