Nearly all adult smokers started smoking before they turned eighteen years old. Despite the fact that most teenaged smokers would tell you that they plan on quitting within a year or so, few of them actually do. Additionally, smoking is responsible for the largest number of preventable deaths each year in the United States.
Clearly, these facts prove that it is critically important for parents to talk to their kids about not smoking. You cannot wait until you find out that your child has tried smoking to have discussions with him or her about it; continual communication with your child from an early age, as young as eight years old even, and into his or her teenage years is vitally important.
Be blunt with your child about the dangers of smoking. There’s no reason to sugarcoat the truth about the risks that accompany lighting up. Smokers have yellow teeth, wrinkled skin, and yellow fingernails; their clothes, hair, and homes reek of smoke. Smokers are at a heightened risk for deadly heart diseases, cancers, breathing problems, emphysema, and more; they take longer to recover from diseases and colds, and they develop a consistent cough and wheeze.
They become physically and psychologically addicted to nicotine and to the act of smoking cigarettes – they need to take breaks from their life and their daily activities in order to satisfy their relentless cravings to smoke. People who smoke have a hard time playing sports and being physically active – they become winded after climbing a flight of stairs. Smokers are also putting both strangers around them and their friends and family in harm’s way by exposing them to second-hand smoke as a result of their own addiction.
Your children have to understand that the glamorization of smoking by the media in television and movies is not a truthful reflection of what smoking is really like. Explain that these are not realistic images, and they are not role models to look up to. There are plenty of other role models who do not smoke that your child can look up to.
First and foremost, your child’s role models are his or her parents. You have to practice what you preach – ‘do as I say, not as I do’ parenting is highly ineffective, and if you are a smoker, then your child is much more likely to become one as well. Children try to emulate their parents, so set a good example for your child – if you are a smoker, then take the initiative and quit. Make your home a smoke-free environment.
Teach your child to value his or her body, and explain the extreme importance of having self-confidence and self-esteem. If your child is sure of his or herself, then they will be better equipped to turn down peers who tempt your child to smoke. Give them the inner strength to say no. These lessons go far beyond the smoking discussions – on a regular basis, compliment your child for his or her positive qualities and ask your child questions about school and friends and social activities.
Be involved in your child’s life. You should know who your kid is friends with, and you should know his or her friends’ parents. If one of your kid’s friends is a smoker, your child is far more likely to experiment with cigarettes than if he or she hangs out with a group of non-smokers. Peer pressure is a powerful force in the life of a pre-teen and teen, so you have to fight it with everything you’ve got!
If your child confides in you that he or she has tried smoking, or if you find evidence that your child has been smoking, your reaction should be calculated. Do not boil over with anger. Do not let your temper flare. If you want your child to feel comfortable opening up to you, you can’t blow up when you find out that your child has made a mistake. Instead, reinforce your message about not smoking, and try to get to the root of the reason that your child was compelled to experiment.
If you go too hard on your kid, then he or she might decide to continue to smoke in an attempt to rebel against you. Try to be compassionate and understanding while you stand firm in your beliefs. Help your child to see the importance of being smoke-free.If you go too