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racial profiling

Racial Profiling and Our Youth

Time to Wake Up! Protecting our Black Youth from Racial Profiling

Racial profiling is a longstanding and deeply troubling national problem despite claims that the United States has entered a “post-racial era.” It occurs every day, in cities and towns across the country, when law enforcement and private security target people of color for humiliating and often frightening detentions, interrogations, and searches without evidence of criminal activity and based on perceived race, ethnicity, national origin, or religion. Racial profiling is patently illegal, violating the U.S. Constitution’s core promises of equal protection under the law to all and freedom from unreasonable searches and seizures.” –ACLU

I grieve for George Floyd and Breonna Taylor. Few of us can imagine the horror that they experienced in those last moments as they were murdered by the people who took an oath to serve and protect them. I grieve and I am disgusted. I want to do something!

As a Social Worker and owner of an agency that focuses on serving and protecting our black youth, I believe that I have been sleepwalking. Most of us have. I hear stories and read accounts of young black men being stopped and handcuffed for bogus traffic stops simply because they were black. Our young black men in our community do not feel safe! They live in constant fear of being stopped by the police. Imagine, if you can, how oppressive that is. It is emotional abuse! The young black men that I work with suffer from this oppressive fear. They feel it every day as that they walk into or drive into the community.

The fear of racial profiling is traumatizing our black youth, and we must wake up and reignite the passion that will end it once and forever.

Here’s an important name: Tae-Ahn Lea. Tae-Ahn was the teenager that was stopped in June of 2019 (a year ago) and detained in handcuffs while his car was searched for 1 ½ hours for drugs. He is suing the Police Department. Here is part of that document:

“Tae-Ahn Lea is an honors graduate from Central High School. He was the homecoming king, has no criminal history and upon graduation became employed with a well-respected local car dealership. Tae-Ahn, however, also happens to be black, live in a low-income neighborhood, and drive his mother’s fairly new vehicle. He was thus the perfect target for members of the Ninth Mobile Division of the Louisville Metro Police Department who, throughout the past two years in Louisville, have employed a discriminatory, prejudicial, and illegal stop and frisk practice in which “violent crimes” units use traffic stops as a pretext for pulling over young black men driving nice cars, handcuffing them and subjecting them to abusive, racist, and intrusive searches without consent, good cause, or reasonable suspicion of any criminal activity.”

Time to wake up! Time to do something! Young black men in our community need our help! They need my help. As an agency, we will be investing time, work, and money to stop this illegal practice! We cannot do everything, but we can do something! It’s time to be a change agent! It’s time to end racial profiling!

Join us!

burnout

Burnout: The Secret to Unlocking The Stress Cycle

Burnout: The Secret to Unlocking the Stress Cycle

by Emily Nagoski and Amelia Nagoski

“The problem is not that we aren’t trying. The problem isn’t even that we don’t know how. The problem is the world has turned “wellness” into yet another goal everyone “should” strive for, but only people with time and money and nannies and yachts and Oprah’s phone number can actually achieve.”

Sometimes a book comes along at the exact right time in your life. Sometimes, that’s a book you probably should have read three degrees ago. This book is exactly that for me. It provided a brand-new way of looking at stress in my life by separating stress from stressors. They write:

Dealing with your stress is a separate process from dealing with the things that cause your stress. To deal with your stress, you have to complete the cycle…Stressors are what activate the stress response in your body. They can be anything you see, hear, smell, touch, taste, or imagine could do you harm. There are external stressors: work, money, family, time, cultural norms and expectations, experiences of discrimination, and so on. And there are less tangible, internal stressors: self-criticism, body image, identity, memories, and The Future. In different ways and to different degrees, all of these things may be interpreted by your body as potential threats.”

A failure to go through and resolve the stress cycle can result in burnout, which was “first coined as a technical term by Herbert Freudenberger in 1975. ‘Burnout’ was defined by three components: 1. emotional exhaustion—the fatigue that comes from caring too much, for too long; 2. depersonalization—the depletion of empathy, caring, and compassion; and 3. decreased sense of accomplishment—an unconquerable sense of futility: feeling that nothing you do makes any difference.”

If we’ve known about burnout for so long, how is it that we’re just now figuring out how to fix it?

This is not quite a rhetorical question. The answer is: Because it’s hard. If everyone knew how to combat burnout, we would all be doing it! (And the monetized “experience of self-care” that’s sold by the capitalist machine will go away, but that’s for another time…) Part of the problem is that we’ve been looking at stress the wrong way. “The good news is that stress is not the problem. The problem is that the strategies that deal with stressors have almost no relationship to the strategies that deal with the physiological reactions our bodies have to those stressors. To be “well” is not to live in a state of perpetual safety and calm, but to move fluidly from a state of adversity, risk, adventure, or excitement, back to safety and calm, and out again. Stress is not bad for you; being stuck is bad for you.”

To get un-stuck, the Nagoskis’ write, we must move. Run, dance, kickbox, tense and release muscles, and, most importantly, breathe. The book has other great tips, as well as a way to plan out all of the options you have for completing the stress cycle.

So the real question is: How are you completing the stress cycle today?

helping kids with transitions

5 Tips for Helping Kids with Transitions

Many children, with and without disabilities, have difficulty managing transitions. This is especially true when you’re moving from a more preferred activity to a less-preferred activity. Who hasn’t had the battle of bedtime, especially when kids are involved with a fun project, watching tv, or playing right before? Here are some practical tips to help with transitions.

  1. Use a visual schedule or checklist

I live by checklists and schedules for myself, and have found that many of my clients have a reduction in stress, tantrums, and meltdowns when a schedule is provided to them. If your child can’t read yet, a combination of pictures and words (to reinforce reading!) can be really helpful. Try a wipe-off board where you write (and check off!) the list for the morning, or a folder with laminated pictures velcro-ed to it.

  1. Use a timer

Many kids have success with visual timers and 10 or 5 minute warnings. If your child can’t read an analogue clock, use a digital one, or use an analog that has a colored portion that ticks down, so they can see how much time is left.

  1. Think forward

In behavioral circles, this is known as FIRST-THEN, as in “first put your toys away, then we’ll go make lunch.” Setting it up this way helps ease anxiety about what’s coming next. You can also do this by reminding your child when they will have the opportunity to engage in the activity you’re asking them to transition away from again. “We have to put up the toys now, but after dinner, you will be able to play again.” I sometimes pair this with an IF-THEN. “If you can show me how quickly you can clean this up, then you’ll have more time to play later!”

  1. Make transitions fun

This can be especially helpful when you have to move from one extreme of activity level to another, i.e., a very active event to a very quiet one. As you transition, you can have your child pretend to be an animal or use their imagination to sneak to the next activity. If we have to go from playing outside to naptime, I build in about 10-15 minutes to pretend that we’re mice and we have to sneak past a cat, or pretend that we’re sneaking into a bank to jump in the vaults, Scrooge MacDuck style. It works similarly in reverse—pretend to be an airplane, careening down the hallway, or a T-Rex, stomping to your next destination.

  1. Provide choices

Another tip from the behavioral sphere: forced choices work well, and aren’t as horrible as they sound! Essentially, as the parent or teacher, you give two options that are equally palatable to you. “Do you want to use this pencil or that one to do your math?” “Do you want to take your shower before or after dinner?” The key is holding the child accountable for the choice that they made, and following through. We all like to feel like we have choices, and this is one way to give your children choices without letting them run the show.

  1. BONUS TIP! Teach calming skills

None of us are born knowing how to self-regulate. We all have to be taught how to calm ourselves down when we are over-stimulated, upset, angry, or sad. When children are small or have neurological challenges that make it difficult for them to follow multi-step directions, we have to co-regulate with them. Researchers Grolnick, Kurowski, McMenamy, Rivkin, and Bridges[1] identified multiple ways caregivers can co-regulate with children:

  • Prompting/helping: Caregiver physically or vocally prompts and scaffolds child (e.g., physical prompting with toy if child becomes frustrated)
  • Following the child’s lead: Caregiver is sensitive to child’s interests and follows the child to his/her desired toy/activity (e.g., Caregiver may appear to wait for child to choose a toy and then insert herself into interaction)
  • Redirection of attention: Caregiver distracts the child or directs the child’s attention away from negative stimulus (e.g., pointing out other toys in room)
  • Active ignoring: Caregiver actively ignores child during distress episodes (e.g., mom may continue to play with a toy or purposely turn away from child)
  • Reassurance: Caregiver reassures or encourages child surrounding frustrating or negative activity (e.g., It’s okay. You can do it!)
  • Emotional following: Caregiver’s reflection, extension or elaboration upon child’s distress or preoccupation (e.g., I know you want the toy)
  • Physical comfort: Caregiver initiates behaviors to comfort child (e.g., hugging, kissing, picking up the child, rocking)
  • Vocal comfort: Caregiver initiates vocalizations to comfort the child (e.g., sshhing, singing, sing-song voice)

[1] Grolnick, W. S., Kurowski, C. O., McMenamy, J. M., Rivkin, I., & Bridges, L. J. (1998). Mothers’ strategies for regulating their toddlers’ distress. Infant Behavior and Development, 21(3), 437–450. http://doi.org/10.1016/S0163-6383(98)90018-2

 

family estrangement

Things We Don’t Talk About: Family Estrangement & Cutoff

Content note: This post contains mention of childhood abuse and trauma. Please exercise discretion if this is something that may be triggering or upsetting.

This is part of a continuing series of “Things we don’t talk about,” also known as “Why people are in therapy” and “the elephant in the room.” While many therapists work with people who are estranged from family members. Not as many will acknowledge that there are times and events that make it appropriate to limit or even cut off contact with a family member. With more frequency, I am discussing and hearing about adult children who have experienced this with a parent. More often than not, the estrangement comes after years of verbal, emotional, physical, and/or sexual abuse. I often find myself asking the critical question: If you were not related to this person, would you continue to have a relationship with them?

I’m very lucky to have the parents that I have. I would still be friends with them even if I wasn’t related to them. Their parenting wasn’t perfect (no one’s is!). But they learned from their mistakes and tried to repair any tears that happened in our relationship over the years. They set appropriate limits with me and my sister, held us accountable when we broke rules, and raised us with the knowledge that we were loved and cared for.

It is appropriate to set boundaries.

Remember, boundaries are not for the other person! They are for the person setting the boundary, in order to draw the line and set a healthy limit on what is (and isn’t) acceptable. Sometimes cutting off contact is the healthiest thing to do. However, there’s a narrative in our culture that says that children should always love and be connected to their parents. When some of my clients have shared with friends that they don’t speak to their parent(s), they hear the old saying: Blood is thicker than water.

That phrase is often used to force someone to continue a relationship that not only isn’t healthy, but is actively harmful. But that’s not the whole saying. The whole saying is: The blood of the covenant is thicker than the water of the womb. Translation: the promises you make to people are more vital than a biological tie. With the help of a supportive therapist, you can start to learn your appropriate boundaries and work on setting them. When people violate those boundaries, they’re showing you who their covenant is with—and it’s not you.

woke

Friday Waypoints- 8/30/19

“Get Woke!”

I’ve been hearing this a lot lately. It means something like, “open your eyes” or “don’t be naïve!” As a Social Worker, I am always mindful of social injustice, inequality, exploitation, and abuse in our world. I’d like to think that I’m “woke.” But of course, I have lots of room to grow. 

I was watching a news report this past week about the impact that sugar had on the lives of millions of African-Americans during the years of enslavement. This past Spring, my wife and I visited two plantations outside New Orleans. We left there thinking that thousands of humans were exploited, abused, and killed on these sites. I got “woke.”

I get “woke” when I see young African-American teens pulled from their cars because of the color of their skin. 

We live in a country that needs to be “woke.” It’s nothing to be ashamed of. We simply need to humbly admit that at times we treat others as a means rather than an end. And then, treat everyone the way that we would want to be treated. That’s what it means to be “woke.” 

It’s Almost September

Speaking of “Getting Woke,” you wake up and its September. 45 years ago I was standing in formation at Lackland Air Force Base in Basic Training. It seems like the other day. I am amazed at how quickly time flies. I’m sure you feel the same way. I remember asking someone what time it was that first morning, thinking that it was close to noon. It was 8:30 am. I remember thinking that the next 4 years were going to be the longest 4 years of my life. Again, that was 45 years ago. 

The lesson: spend your time doing meaningful things. That means, calling (or texting) a family member right now and telling them that you love them. 

That means, forgiving someone, right now, who has wronged you, telling your grandchildren how proud you are of them, and holding your partner just a little bit longer the next time you hug.

Life is to be lived! I’m not sure who said that, maybe Eleanor Roosevelt. To me, living life means more than just exploring and traveling and spending wisely. It means loving the people that you have in your life right now. Don’t let another day pass holding a grudge or resentment. 

Book I’m Reading- The Making of a Therapist, Louis Cozolino

There is nothing easy about training new therapists. True North Counseling has two new therapist coming on board next month: Patrice Elmore and Sharonda Tunstull! They have been MSW students with us and will now be joining us as new Certified Social Workers. I’ve given them both this book. We will spend the next 3-5 years helping them become seasoned Psychotherapists. It’s exciting and humbling! It’s what I love about what I do!

vaping program

Introducing RAVE: Reduce Adolescent Vaping Education

Raising Awareness Around Vaping

Vaping, or the act of inhaling a vaporized liquid from an electronic smoking device, is becoming an epidemic across the country. Teenagers are picking up BLU cigarettes, JUULs, and other vaping devices for a multitude of reasons and ending up addicted to nicotine. Whether teenagers are interested because they see their friends vaping, enjoy the flavors, or think it looks cool, it’s detrimental to their health and wellbeing.

There is a common misperception that vaping is safer than smoking because vaporizers do not contain the hundreds of chemicals found in the tobacco leaves and filters of cigarettes. However, research is showing that this is not the case. The vapor is infused with propylene glycol, flavoring chemicals, and nicotine. A person who vapes, just like a person who smokes cigarettes, becomes dependent on the nicotine within the product.

Some vaporizer liquids do not contain nicotine, but most do. In fact, JUUL is the most popular brand of e-cigarettes and 100% of their “pods” contain nicotine. While it is marketed as a smoking cessation device to help adults kick the smelly habit of smoking traditional cigarettes, the marketing is also targeting teenagers. Until they were reprimanded by the FDA, JUUL had a highly engaging presence on Instagram, a social media platform mainly used by teenagers. And still, to this day, the design and packaging of the JUUL is sleek, “sexy”, and appealing to easily influenced teens.

More worrisome than the design and accessibility of the JUUL, and other vapes, is the discreetness of them. Unlike traditional cigarettes that come in a large pack and carry a lasting odor with them after they’re smoked, vapes are discreet in size and omit no odor. This makes it much harder for parents, teachers, and other adults to recognize when their teenager is vaping.

The RAVE Program

According to research reported in the Wall Street Journal, vaping rates among teenagers jumped 75% in 2018. Alarmed by this increase, Mark Neese, principal therapist at True North Counseling in Louisville, KY, has decided to raise awareness around the dangers associated with this behavior by introducing a special program. RAVE: Reduce Adolescent Vaping Education, is a 4 to 6-week program that combines individual, group, and family therapy with education to ensure that parents are able to act as change agents in the lives of their teenagers. Teens enrolled in RAVE will attend 4 weekly group sessions that are facilitated by two certified clinicians. True North Counseling’s certified clinicians include one behavioral specialist and one social worker who will provide up-to-date information about the dangers of vaping and smoking. Each session will feature a strong Mindfulness component as well.

In addition to the four group sessions, a family session will kick off the program and three individual sessions are also included with the goal of enlisting a commitment from the teen to stop vaping. During this process, parents are given strategies for relapse prevention including the use of Nicotine Test Kits. Nicotine can stay in your system for up to three months depending on the frequency of use. When used randomly by parents and guardians, nicotine testing proves effective in deterring teenagers from continuing to vape. Nicotine Test Kits will be provided to the parents or guardians who participate in the RAVE program, so they can test their teenagers as frequently or infrequently as they’d like.

Tips for Parents & Guardians

If you are a parent, guardian, or adult concerned that a teenager you know may be vaping, the first thing to do is talk to them. Ask them if they feel they are dependent on the device or if they feel agitated when they are not doing it. Discuss the risks of vaping including what’s known and not known about the long-term effects. Make sure that they understand vaping is just as bad for them as cigarettes, but with different effects and different results.

If you’ve already talked to them and still suspect that they are vaping, let True North Counseling in Louisville, Kentucky help. With the new RAVE program available at True North Counseling, parents or guardians can work with their teenager and True North Counseling’s certified clinicians to help teens stop vaping. As a team, everyone will come up with a strategy to quit vaping, prevent relapse, and stay mindful of the dangers associated with vaping and the benefits, both short-term and long-term, of not vaping.

To learn more about the dangers of vaping, read our past blogs on teen vaping and vaping facts. True North Counseling’s first RAVE program begins on July 11, 2019. For program costs and enrollment those interested in learning more can contact Henry L. Buckwalter, CSW, an Associate Clinician at True North Counseling, by calling 502-377-4814 today. 

Friday Waypoints- 6/14/19

What I’m Reading

“Changing Body Composition through Diet and Exercise” by Michael Ormsbee, Ph.D.

I’m actually listening to this book on Audible. I’m on the road a lot and I spend most of this time listening to books. Ormsbee writes, “Improving body composition by losing body fat and optimizing lean is not about vanity –it’s about health.”

This book is not about losing weight. It’s about decreasing the amount of body fat in your body and it’s about insuring that you do not lose muscle mass. I like this approach because I do not want to lose weight. My BMI puts me in the overweight category, but that’s because I work out and exercise regularly. I realized years ago that you begin losing muscle mass as you age and I have worked very hard to maintain and grow muscle. I “preach” to clients, “You need to work at becoming stronger as you age.” Maintaining your lean muscle mass is one way of do this. Ormsbee does a very good job explaining the basics of nutrition and puts the focus on the right things.

What Are You Listening To?

Apple Music is introducing me to new music and helping me stay in touch with my favorites. Just hit the “For You” tab on the app and you get the option of “New Music Mix,” “Favorites Mix,” and “Chill Mix.”

Don’t underestimate the power of music in your life. Recently, I’ve been utilizing the Mindfulness Meditation that encourages you to “Step in the Feeling.” This could include “stepping into the sadness. Most of us DO NOT like listening to “sad” music, but there can be something therapeutic about purposely sitting during a mindfulness session and “stepping into sadness” while listening to sad music.

Of course, listening to “happy and upbeat” music is important too! I’m listening to some past favorites right now and this music is conjuring up many memories associated with that music. Let music by thy medicine.

Families Want to Get Along

One of the reasons I love what I do is the desire that most families have to get along. They want to end the conflict. They come to me hoping that I can help and many times I can.

Raising teenagers is not easy! Teenagers are under a lot of pressure! Neither Parents not teens want to fight and when I see them years later, they scratch their heads and wonder why there was so much conflict.

This week, I witnessed a wonderful family following the “therapeutic map” that I laid out before them. I saw them all working together. And they left with smiles on their face because they saw something work. It keeps my compass pointed toward “True North.”

Things We Don’t Talk About: Child Abuse

Content note: This post contains mention of childhood abuse and trauma. Please exercise discretion if this is something that may be triggering or upsetting.

Following on the heels of the previous post about Things We Don’t Talk About: Miscarriage and Stillbirth, I thought I’d exercise my role as “Namer of the Elephant in the Room” and talk about child abuse—specifically, childhood sexual abuse. From 2009-2013, national Child Protective Services agencies substantiated (or found strong evidence to indicate) that 63,000 children a year were victims of sexual abuse. A majority of child victims are 12-17. Of victims under the age of 18: 34% of victims of sexual assault and rape are under age 12, and 66% of victims of sexual assault and rape are age 12-17. The majority (9 out of 10) of these assaults happen to girls. Our own Kentuckiana community has seen several serial abusers in the news recently, with perpetrators who gained access to victims through schools, childcare organizations, and scouting community activities. The overwhelming response on all of these cases where children were abused has been “Where was her mother?”

The idea that sexual abuse is perpetrated by a stranger is simply false. Not only is it untrue, it’s also dangerous, because it shifts the focus from helping children be heard and feel safe to teaching children that there is nothing they can do to keep themselves safe from strangers. The vast majority of perpetrators of sexual violence against children are known adults who were trusted by the child’s parent(s). RAINN estimates that up to 93 percent of victims under the age of 18 know their abuser.

Make no mistake: the responsibility for child sexual abuse rests solely with the perpetrator. Child sexual abuse isn’t a symptom of “bad parents,” or being negligent or not caring about your kid. However, there are things that parents can do to reduce the risk of their child(ren) being sexually abused.

First, know the signs.

Physical signs:

  • Bleeding, bruises, or swelling in genital area
  • Bloody, torn, or stained underclothes
  • Difficulty walking or sitting
  • Frequent urinary or yeast infections
  • Pain, itching, or burning in genital area

Behavioral signs:

  • Changes in hygiene, such as refusing to bathe or bathing excessively
  • Develops phobias
  • Exhibits signs of depressionor post-traumatic stress disorder
  • Expresses suicidal thoughts, especially in adolescents
  • Has trouble in school, such as absences or drops in grades
  • Inappropriate sexual knowledge or behaviors
  • Nightmares or bed-wetting
  • Overly protective and concerned for siblings, or assumes a caretaker role
  • Returns to regressive behaviors, such as thumb sucking
  • Runs away from home or school
  • Self-harms
  • Shrinks away or seems threatened by physical contact

It’s never too late to have these conversations.

  • Teach your child about boundaries. Let your child know that no one has the right to touch them or make them feel uncomfortable — this includes hugs from grandparents or even tickling from mom or dad. It is important to let your child know that their body is their own. Just as importantly, remind your child that they do not have the right to touch someone else if that person does not want to be touched.
  • Teach your child how to talk about their bodies. From an early age, teach your child the names of their body parts. Teaching a child these words gives them the ability to come to you when something is wrong. Learn more about talking to children about sexual assault.
  • Be available. Set time aside to spend with your child where they have your undivided attention. Let your child know that they can come to you if they have questions or if someone is talking to them in a way that makes them feel uncomfortable. If they do come to you with questions or concerns, follow through on your word and make the time to talk.
  • Let them know they won’t get in trouble. Many perpetrators use secret-keeping or threats as a way of keeping children quiet about abuse. Remind your child frequently that they will not get in trouble for talking to you, no matter what they need to say. When they do come to you, follow through on this promise and avoid punishing them for speaking up.
  • Give them the chance to raise new topics. Sometimes asking direct questions like, “Did you have fun?” and “Was it a good time?” won’t give you the answers you need. Give your child a chance to bring up their own concerns or ideas by asking open-ended questions like “Is there anything else you wanted to talk about?”

 

 

 

Friday Waypoints

Friday Waypoints – 05/17/19

Mark Neese is back with another Friday Waypoints blog post. On this weeks Friday Waypoints, Mark discusses how drugs cause parents to abandon their children, why the internet is a dangerous place for teens, and he revisits The Parklands of Floyd Forks. Mark discusses his previous visit to The Parklands of Floyd Forks, a hidden gem in Louisville, KY, in his Friday Waypoints on 5/10.

Drugs and Parents that Abandon Their Kids

I’ve been working with families for about 25 years. My early career was working in the rural counties surrounding Louisville. The families that I worked with were struggling with poverty and at times intellectual disabilities. It was challenging and rewarding. Every now and then I run into one of the family members that I worked with and it is very gratifying to see them doing well these many years later.

Today things are different. I have never witnessed an epidemic as I have today: parents abandoning their children because of drugs. This past weekend was Mother’s Day and two of the teens that I work with wanted to call and talk with their mothers but were unable to contact them because they were both AWOL. Both mothers are semi-homeless and have serious drug problems. To compound the problem, one of the teens witnessed his father being taken away in an ambulance because of a suspected overdose, on the very same day. Not such a “Happy Mother’s Day.”

Meditating in The Parklands of Floyds Fork (Reprise)

I was back at the Parklands yesterday to visit the Moss Gibbs Woodland Gardens. It is the gem of the new park system. It’s beautiful, and quiet, and I anticipate spending many of my mornings there. I’m practicing Mindfulness and using guided meditations by Donald Seigel. For those interested in learning more you can visit his website for free meditation downloads: http://www.mindfulness-solution.com.

The meditation that I used yesterday while sitting in the midst of the garden was one that focused on self-compassion. During this meditation you focus on the phrases: “May I be happy, may I be healthy, may I live at ease,” or “May I be safe, may I be at peace, may I be free from suffering.” You can do this while driving, walking or sitting in a quiet place in your home. The Woodland Garden offers a place to sit quietly and listen to the Towhees, wrens and Cardinals. It offers a place to be part of a forest.

The Internet is a Dangerous Place for Teens

I am working with a Teen that was nearly swallowed up by Internet. Her mother saved her. It started with the website, “Wattpad.” This is a social storytelling platform. It ended with her sending pictures of herself to perfect strangers through a group on Instagram: #ddlg. She was being groomed for something dangerous and evil.

These are adult sites and 13-year olds should not be on them! She had no clue what she was getting into.

Parents, monitor your teenagers on the internet. There are predators that will take advantage of their innocence and take it from them!

Quote I’m Pondering

“Your smile and your laughter lit my whole world.”

Ranata Suzuki

Vaping FAQs

The Next Scourge (a term I never use) of Our Country: Teen Vaping

Leave it to the Tobacco Industry to figure out a way to get more people addicted to nicotine at a time when smoking in this country has been in decline.

Here is their approach: 1) Target teenagers, 2) Make the product very cool (sexy), 3) Make it in as many flavors as possible, and 4) Put nicotine in the product.

The result: Teenagers are increasingly using vape pens (e-cigarettes) and becoming addicted to nicotine and putting themselves at risk of smoking combustible cigarettes.

In case you have no idea what I’m talking about, here are some FAQs (Courtesy of Smoke Free America) about vaping:

Vaping FAQs

What is vaping?

Vaping is the act of inhaling a vaporized liquid from an electronic device. The vapor commonly contains nicotine, flavoring and other additives. It also can contain THC, the chemical in marijuana that makes the user feel “high.”

What are the different vape products?

Popular terms for vaping devices include JUULs, e-cigarettes, e-cigs, smokeless cigarettes, vaporizers, vape, vape pens, vapor pens, mods, tanks, cigalikes, e-hookah and hookah pens. These vary widely in size, shape and design. Some look like computer flash drives or highlighters, while others are bulky and box-like.

What is in a vape juice or e-liquid?

Vape juice, e-liquid, JUULpods – these are all names for the liquid that is vaporized into an aerosol cloud. Vape juice most commonly contains three ingredients: propylene glycol and/or glycerin, chemicals for flavoring, and nicotine. 

The pods for JUULs, the brand name of the most popular vaping device among teens, contains nicotine 100 percent of the time. The amount of nicotine in one JUULpod has the same amount of nicotine in an entire pack of cigarettes. Some vape pods can also contain THC, the chemical in marijuana that makes the user feel “high.” Complicating the issue, vaping doesn’t give off the telltale smell of smoking marijuana or cigarettes.

Is vaping healthier than smoking cigarettes?

Though some may claim vaping is less dangerous than traditional cigarettes, that doesn’t mean that vaping is safe. In other words, “safer” doesn’t mean safe. Studies have shown that the aerosol vapor can contain dangerous toxins, including heavy metals and chemicals known to cause cancer and other diseases. 1

Most vape devices contain nicotine, which is highly addictive. Human brain development continues far longer than was previously realized (until age 25), and nicotine use during adolescence and young adulthood has been associated with lasting brain impairments, including effects on working memory and attention. 2

There are also no standard regulations for vape manufacturers. Even with more than 450 different types of vape products, there are no universal standards for product design, ingredients and safety features. 3

More troubling, some vape products are owned by big tobacco companies, which have a history of prioritizing sales over safety.4

Some teens say they just vape flavors, without nicotine or THC. Is that possible?

While some vapes do not contain nicotine or THC, most do. In fact, 100 percent of JUULs – teens’ top choice for vaping devices – contain nicotine. And each JUUL pod contains the same amount of nicotine as a whole pack of cigarettes. Plus, studies have shown that most vaping products labeled “nicotine free” actually contain nicotine.5 For teens who don’t want to become addicted to nicotine, the safest option is not to vape at all. 

Can teens under age 18 legally vape and buy these products?

Vape devices and paraphernalia cannot legally be sold to or used by anyone under the age of 18. 

How can I tell if or what kids are vaping?

That’s part of the problem – it can be very hard to tell if a teen is vaping. Not only do manufacturers make discreet devices that resemble flash drives, highlighters and more, but they also do not have the same strong odor that is often a giveaway for parents and teachers. Vaping is so discreet, in fact, that students have been known to vape during class.