How Can I Keep My Teenage Daughter From Smoking?
Teenage girls are becoming smokers at higher rates than teenage boys. Several studies have shown that about 30% of teenage girls smoke, compared to 22% of boys. Girls tend to ignore the health risks that go along with smoking and to exaggerate the number of friends who also smoke. Girls say that they smoke to appear older and to appear more confident. Girls who smoke may also start drinking earlier.
Parents can help keep their teenage daughters from smoking by working with them to accomplish three steps. The first step is to have the self-confidence to decide that they did not need to smoke to fit in with their friends. For some girls this means making different friends. For others, it means getting involved in activities where they do not need to smoke to be accepted. Girls who have passed the first step often feel that smoking is "dumb" or "pointless."
The second step involves doing some very specific things that show others and themselves that they are not going to smoke. These may include saying "no" when offered cigarettes, making excuses for not smoking, avoiding smokers and smoking areas, and finding other ways to fit in.
The third step involves doing some very specific things that result in her being known as a "nonsmoker." As a result, her friends will accept this identity and stop pressuring her to smoke. One way to be accepted as a nonsmoker is to strike a deal of shared respect and to also accept her friends who are smokers. A second way is to "get firm" and publicly declare her decision not to smoke, without fear of losing her friends.
Teenage girls who have decided not to smoke or who have quit after trying cigarettes, say that it helps to have supportive friends and adults. In order to develop the self-confidence they need to keep from smoking, they need people who will listen to them and accept them for who they are. Parents and family members can play important roles by being members of her support group. They can help her recognize and celebrate the positive steps she makes along the way to becoming a nonsmoker for the rest of her life.
Reprinted with the permission of the University of Missouri. © 2008 — Curators of the University of Missouri
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