Part One: What do you do when you find the child who pestered you for years to quit is now picking up the habit themselves? Upset and surprised as you may feel (after all, you did strongly advise them not to follow your bad example), you will need to tread lightly and resist the urge to lecture and demand. If you come on too strong, your child may just dig in their heels, assert their independence, and continue to smoke.
Instead, be a good listener and ask your child why they started smoking. What was the appeal? How much do they smoke, and with whom? It only takes a short time for a smoker to become addicted; ask if (s)he feels uncomfortable going without smoking for a few hours. Opening a discussion about their smoking habit can help you both create a quit plan.
A great way to prevent your children from smoking is to set a good example and not smoke yourself. So, if you have already quit, then congratulations! If you are in the process of quitting, be honest with them about how hard it is for you to quit and how much you wish you never started. If they see you slip or relapse, use that as a teaching moment. Kids respect honest communication over ultimatums. Reconfirm the addictive power of nicotine. Let them know it’s a struggle, but that you won’t give up on quitting smoking. In the meantime, go outside to smoke and avoid leaving any cigarettes accessible to your teen. Make your home and car a smoke-free zone. Studies show parents who avoid smoking in front of their children may help prevent them from picking up the habit.
Don’t underestimate the influence you have as a parent! Though your teen may appear to be ignoring you, the truth is they care a great deal about what you think of them and don’t want to disappoint you. Stay strong and consistent in your message that smoking is not an option. Keep the communication open by being nonjudgmental and paying attention to what your child is telling you.
Next week: Helping your kids deal with peer pressure.