Stay Involved and Informed
One of the most important things you can do to help your children be tobacco-free is to stay involved in their lives. By staying informed and keeping lines of communication open, you can be well equipped to address any issues that may arise.
- Know that cigarettes aren’t the only form of tobacco that teens use. Bidis (“bee-dees”), kreteks (“kree-tex”), dip, cigars, and chew are all different forms of tobacco, and all are addictive and can pose significant health risks to your child. Make sure to talk with your child about all forms of tobacco, including smokeless.1
- Be aware of your child’s friends and their habits. If one of your kid’s friends smokes, make sure to let your child know that you disapprove of the behavior and talk to her about resisting peer pressure. Find out how to help your child overcome negative peer pressure.
- Just because your teen does very well in school, participates in organized athletics, is very young, or doesn’t have spending money does not mean that he is not at risk. All kids experience peer pressure and may be tempted to try smoking.2
Children, especially teens, are eager to assert their independence. You, as a parent, want to support this, but at the same time, want to make sure your teen is making good decisions. Fortunately, it’s possible to do both.
- Spend time explaining the reasons for your rules and decisions. This lets your child know that your expectations for her have good reasoning behind them. Showing your child respect through this and other measures will make it more likely that she will listen to your opinions and appreciate your values on issues like tobacco use.3
- Remember that rebellion can be a sign of growth. Let your teen speak his mind, even if you disagree with him. If you listen to him, he will be more likely to listen to you when you have things to say.
- Encourage your teen to demonstrate her maturity in healthy ways, such as through sports, music, theater, or a part-time job. Help her see that tobacco use is not a part of growing up.
- Acknowledge that your kids face tough situations. Let them know you understand that it’s tough to make decisions between doing what’s right and seeming “uncool.”
Research also shows that your parenting approach has an effect on how likely your kids are to pick up smoking. The following strategies have been shown to decrease the likelihood of your child beginning tobacco use:3
- Being sensitive to your child’s changing needs as she grows. Teenagers, for example, feel the need to demonstrate their independence—this is not, however, something you need to be concerned about if you have an elementary-age child.
- Clearly explaining the reasons for your rules and decisions. If you expect all family members to do chores, explain that this is because you expect all members of your family to help each other out in taking care of the family as a whole.
- Having high expectations for your kid’s behavior. By setting the expectation that your child will finish her homework every night, you teach her the importance of school and the discipline needed to prioritize academic and social activities.
Staying involved in your child’s life and tailoring your parenting approach are key in raising successful kids, even beyond preventing underage tobacco use. Keep these ideas in the back of your mind at all times to encourage your kids to grow up to be healthy, caring, responsible adults.
1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “Tobacco Use, Access, and Exposure to Tobacco in Media Among Middle and High School Students—United States, 2004,” MMWR 54, no. 12 (2005):297-301.
2. Merrill Melnick and others, “Tobacco Use Among High School Athletes and Nonathletes: Results of the 1997 Youth Risk Behavior Survey,” Adolescence 36, no. 144 (2001):727-747.
3. Christine Jackson, ”Perceived Legitimacy of Parental Authority and Tobacco and Alcohol Use During Early Adolescence,” Journal of Adolescent Health 31 (2002): 425-32.
- Alcohol Use
- Drug Use
- Depression and Suicide
- Tobacco Use
- Bullying and Cyberbullying
- Early Sexual Activity
- Eating Disorders
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