Q: Last week, I saw my 14-year-old daughter and her friends smoking at the park. She knows that her dad and I don’t condone smoking, and we have talked about the negative effects. Should I tell her I saw her?
A: Calmly tell her that you saw her and reinforce that you don’t condone smoking. Make sure her father gives her the same message. Try to find out how she started smoking and why she keeps doing it. Remind her about the negative effects and use examples of people you both know who have either fallen ill or died as a result of smoking. She may think smoking is cool, and likely enjoys being part of the gang, but ask her to consider her long-term health and quality of life.
That said, long-term thinking is not a young teenager’s strong suit, so you might also have to appeal to her pride. You can point out that smoking causes bad breath, smelly clothes and hair, yellow teeth and fingernails, unhealthy-looking pale skin, premature wrinkles and a hacking cough with phlegm. You might also get your daughter to calculate the cost of buying cigarettes and see if she can think of better things she might buy with her money. If your daughter thinks that smoking can help to calm her at times of stress, try to help her find healthy ways of coping with stress.