Kids and cigs just don’t mix. But there’s a lot you can do as a parent to help your child or teen navigate the many difficult pressures they may feel to light up.
When it comes to smoking, kids often follow their parents. A recent 23-year long study found that smokers were six times more likely to have kids who smoked than non-smokers. Even parental smoking before a child is born increases the chance that children will smoke. Clearly, a house full of ash trays, lighters, and the smell of smoke, not to mention, smoking itself, are big triggers for impressionable children. Add to that peer pressure and constant advertising to be “cool,” and you have a smoking bomb.
The good news is that you as a parent can offset those pressures by being a positive role model. By not smoking, offering honest, direct interactions, and sharing positive values, you can directly (and subtly) influence your children not to smoke. When should you start having the talk about cigarettes? Experts say when your children are around age 5 or 6, and continue through high school. That’s because many kids start using tobacco by age 11 and are addicted by age 14. If you want to make the biggest impact, connect with your kids about smoking at prime times: before school, on the way to practice or rehearsals, or after dinner.
Here are a few tips to prevent your children from picking up the habit:
- Model good behavior. If you smoke, quit now. If you still smoke, let your children know you are trying to stop and even encourage their support. Tell them it was one of the biggest mistakes of your life. And never, ever smoke in front of your children, offer them cigarettes, or leave cigarettes or accessories where they can find them.
- Open up the discussion. Casually ask your children what they like or dislike about smoking. Ask if their friends smoke and whether they have ever felt pressured to smoke.
- Discuss the downside. Let your children know the health dangers of smoking (heart and respiratory disease, cancer, etc.) as well as the impact on their physical appearance (brown teeth, gum disease, stinky hair, clothing, and breath). Honestly tell them about
- Enforce firm house rules. Tell your children directly that you don’t want them to smoke cigarettes. Don’t allow any smoking in your home and rid the house of all triggers.
- Offer strategies. Help them discover other ways to feel good about themselves.
- Become teen-centric. Many teens balk at any kind of manipulation, so talk in their language. Tell them how addictive nicotine is, the glamorization of smoking in movies, and how many billions of dollars the tobacco industry spends to make their products as appealing and addictive as possible. This realization makes many teen smokers angry and even motivated to quit.
- Enhance family health. Engage in family outings like sports, picnics, and movies where smoking is not favored or banned. Set health goals for the family and enjoy achieving them together.
The basis of all parental success is firm, honest love. By becoming a smokefree role model for your family, you’ll not only help your children, you’ll also help yourself stay on track. Nothing is more important to a parent than the health and happiness of their family. So start here, one day at a time, by quitting and staying quit. Then pass that victory onto your children.
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