Many people would easily dismiss smoking as a normal, difficult to avoid/control and even inescapable part of teenage life, but it doesn’t mean that we should ignore it. Studies show that the earlier a young person begins to smoke, the more likely he will become an adult smoker and the longer he is to stay hooked. Adolescent tobacco users are more prone to using alcohol and illegal drugs than are non-users. On top of all that are the glaring health hazards of smoking. As caring parents, helping our children quit smoking is still the best thing to do.
Fortunately, parents like us aren’t absolutely without help. Most communities have professionals, agencies and organizations that are committed to running useful campaigns against smoking. Schools and local governments are usually cooperative at initiating programs that educate students on the perils of smoking. Churches, pastoral counselors and social workers can likewise be called on to provide some help. If we’re feeling up to it, we can also go as far as asking the government (Congress) to pass laws that further restrict the tobacco industry (by imposing even higher taxes on it and enforcing prohibition of minors’ purchasing and use of tobacco products). These are some of the things we can bring into play to combat the pervasive influence of advertising and peer pressure on adolescent smoking.
For more practical tips on handling your predicament, consider the following:
1. Try to avoid using strong-arm tactics. Nagging, begging, ridiculing, threatening and giving condescending lectures, as you may have probably noticed, rarely meet with success, and usually become further cause for your child to want to smoke more.
2. Find out why your teen is smoking. Often, smoking is only the tip of an iceberg—a symptom of a deeper problem, such as the need for parents’ attention, the need for belongingness or acceptance by a peer group, unhealthy self-esteem, etc. Being a teenager alone can be quite a strain! Nurture a healthy and consistent communication line with him to help him address his concerns. If unequivocally necessary (i.e., if his inability to cope with his issues reaches the extent that he is failing to function normally), ask for a professional’s help.
3. Be compassionate. Try to understand that quitting smoking isn’t a cinch; some people find it harder to achieve than others. Show your interest in your child’s situation in a non-intimidating manner. Communicate your concern lovingly to him and involve him in a mother-child or family effort to address his problem. Let him make suggestions—this will show him how much you value his contributions to solving the problem. Negotiate/work out ways with him to explore and effectively execute the changes that must be made to stop his destructive habit.
4. Most smokers, specially beginners, believe they can easily unhook themselves from the smoking habit whenever they want, yet studies reveal many of them never do. You can share to him these and a myriad other facts why smoking is nasty (the internet can help you find many of these informations), again using a non-intimidating, non-haughty tone. If your child knows someone who has successfully quit smoking, invite that person to talk to your child so that the latter can hear firsthand from one who has actually been through the experience of quitting. Support groups with which he can relate to can also help.
5. Parents who are smokers should try to quit. If they have already quit, they must speak to their child about their own experience in a way that the latter can connect to them.
6. Be supportive all the way, especially when your child decides to quit. Quitting smoking entails a host of undesirable but temporary effects called withdrawal symptoms, such as irritability, depression, headaches and difficulty sleeping, which are all signs that his body is adjusting and recovering its healthy equilibrium. This withdrawal period is when parents critically need all the courage, patience and ingenuity they can muster at providing the most peaceful and supportive atmosphere for their child throughout his most difficult days.
Walk with him through this stage by:
a. using prayer consistently and reading the Bible (Though this is a cliché for many, it actually works! Praying together with your child may do wonders, too.);
b. pushing him to delay satisfying his craving—the craving will go away eventually;
c. engaging him in a variety of activities that will keep his mind off his craving;
d. encouraging him more at every progress point until he finally overcomes the habit;
e. surrounding him with things and people who can support his resolve to quit;
f. helping him avoid stressful situations that could lead him to a relapse.
When a relapse occurs, stay positive and reassuring. Consider each failure as a learning experience for both of you that you could use to make the next attempt more successful.
7. Lastly, reward your teen when he finally quits. Plan something special for him, preferably something that your family can do together with him.
You can’t make a person quit smoking without that person’s conscious and willful conviction as well as committed cooperation to quit. But that doesn’t mean you can give up that easily. No parent should be quick to give up on guiding their children out of harm’s way. When your child chooses to disobey despite your reminders and efforts, don’t blame yourself. Rely above all, on God.