Finding out that your teen has picked up a cigarette, put it in their mouth, and lit it up is heartbreaking for a parent. Finding out that they’ve picked up many more than one and developed a habit of smoking is even more upsetting. As an adult, whether you smoke or not, you know that their health, their finances, and even their future lifestyle is going to be affected negatively by this choice.
As a parent, you should certainly help your teen to quit and this will mean doing more than just telling them that they aren’t allowed to smoke. In fact, taking this route of parenting almost never works in this situation. Your teen will likely begin to hide it more carefully and you might think that the problem is solved, but it’s not at all. It is likely intensifying all the while that you are patting yourself on the back for the firm manner that you approached the issue with.
The problem with just telling your teen to quit is that this is not just a choice, such as staying out past curfew or not getting a homework assignment in on time, this is an addiction. The mental, physical, and emotional state of your teen is being affected by the nicotine and there is damage being done to key receptors in the brain which makes quitting a real challenge. Educate yourself regarding the effects of smoking and how quitting will affect the teen so that you can give all the support and encouragement possible.
One of the other problems with helping a teen quit smoking is that they are too young to be prescribed most smoking cessation products. Although the teen somehow finds a way to get cigarettes, he or she is still not allowed to purchase any nicotine replacement products and will likely not ask their older friends to obtain these for them. It is a hard decision for many parents, but if buying the nicotine gum, patch, or other product is going to free them of the addiction, you may want to consider getting these products for them.
There are some other things that can make the quitting easier for some teens. Chewing gum, cinnamon or sour flavored hard candies, something that keeps the hands busy, and/or ensuring that the teen stays as busy as possible with enjoyable distractions are a few that seem to help the majority of people who are trying to put aside cigarette smoking.
Everyone loves incentives and young people may love them even more than most. Offer your teen some things that they really want, whether that be actual items, events, privelages, or other things. Don’t limit these offerings only for fully quitting, but offer something day by day. Every day in the life of a quitter is a struggle, although they will get easier over time, and a day without smoking a great success.
Make a pact of honesty and allow the teen to feel like they can tell you the truth about their progress. Don’t be discouraging even if it’s not going well, but continue to be supportive. The fact that the teen is even trying is a step more than many people take. It may be very difficult for you, as a parent, to treat your teen as though he or she is an adult, but since you already know that they are smoking, you are going to be doing well to do so. Quitting smoking is a very adult thing to do.
There are support groups, both in “real life” and online, which may be effective for some people who are quitting smoking. You might be able to find one that is specifically for teens, so take the time to search around a bit and see what’s out there. Support groups don’t work well for everyone, but if they work for your teen, that’s great.
More than almost anything, you should be prepared for your teen to begin the process of quitting smoking for good. This is going to have an effect on you and everyone else that your teen is interacting with because of the effects it will be having on them as their body is screaming out for the nicotine that they are trying to resist. Don’t be over-sensitive and do be overly patient and kind. If you smoke or have other people in your home who do, absolutely do not do it around the teen who is trying to quit!
Nicotine addiction occurs quickly and is one of the most difficult habits to ever break. Many people who have successfully quit using narcotics and/or alcohol have been unable to break the habit of smoking cigarettes. It is a bit easier to break the habit if the smoking hasn’t been going on for long, but even then, there is going to be an intense struggle. There is no doubt that the long-term effects of quitting are worth the struggle, but that doesn’t make it any easier when the battle is on.