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Talking to your children about the dangers of smoking can impact their future decisions, but it needs to be done right.
The adolescent years are often the most difficult to parent. This is the period when your loving child turns into an unpredictable monster, and when experimentation with risky behaviours such as smoking increases dramatically.
Children start to smoke for different reasons. Adolescence is characterised by worries about fitting in and being accepted by peers. Children with low self-esteem and who lack assertiveness are more likely to succumb to peer pressure to smoke. They may also turn to cigarettes to cope with stress, frustration, sadness or boredom. Some youth may have the misconception that smoking helps them to lose weight or boost their energy levels. For others, smoking evolves into an autopilot, habitual pattern of behaviour because cigarettes are easily available and are what they see in their homes.
Smokers often start young. The US Department of Health and Human Services estimates that 90% of smokers begin smoking before age 20. Of these, 50% begin tobacco use by age 14 and 25% begin their use by age 12.
Among tobacco users, nearly half will die from it. About six million people die each year from tobacco, of which more than 600,000 are non-smokers dying from breathing in second-hand smoke . Besides causing death, smoking can result in addiction and a wide range of health problems, including respiratory illnesses, decreased physical fitness, lung cancer and heart disease—which can lead to premature disability and death.
As a parent, you may feel powerless about affecting your teenager’s behaviour, but you actually have more influence than you think. Read on to learn how you can stay better connected with your child and prevent him or her from engaging in risky behaviours, such as tobacco use.
Related: Smoking - Addiction or Habit?
Parents have tremendous influence on children, as children often grow up to emulate the behaviour, beliefs, and attitudes of their parents. Parents are important role models and parental smoking has a direct impact on teenagers. According to a study on Dutch students, parenting approach and parents’ smoking status have a direct impact on teenagers. A Student Health Survey 2006 conducted by the Health Promotion Board (HPB) showed that a significantly higher percentage of youth smokers (59%) had at least one parent who smoked, as compared to the non-smokers (34%).
This parental influence extends to parenting styles, as the approach adopted can impact whether a child smokes or not. Parents who are involved, loving and responsive to their children are likely to decrease the risk of teens experimenting with smoking.
Related: Learn More About Smoking, Tobacco Use and Health
High levels of communication about smoking can result in lower rates of smoking among teens. Take the initiative to start conversations with your child about smoking, display empathy and give your child space—all factors that play a role in whether your child will smoke or not.
Related: Raising Smoke-Free Teens
If your teenager is already smoking, you can help him or her to quit. Avoid threats and angry confrontations as they rarely work. Instead, take a reasonable conversational tone to find out why your child is smoking. Then, reward your teen when he or she quits.
If you smoke, reflect more on your smoking behaviour and for the sake of setting a positive example for your child, consider quitting. But if you used to smoke, share your struggles and talk to your child about your experience.
Quitting is difficult not only for teens, but also for adults. When the desire to smoke hits, consider the six D’s of quitting:
Applying the appropriate parenting strategies can have a positive impact on your teens. But even if your children end up smoking, it does not make you a failure as a parent. Learn from your experiences to figure out how to improve your parenting strategies, and if your children are smoking, how to help them to stop.
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This article was last reviewed on
Thursday, March 7, 2019
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