The best ways to help your addicted teen.
Addiction among teenagers today remains to be a problem. Statistics reveal that three million (3,000,000) high school students and six hundred thousand (600,000) middle schoolers smoke cigarettes today. While there are parents who argue that smoking is just a “phase” that teens have to go through, it does not negate the fact that smoking cigarettes are extremely harmful.
What are the dangerous effects of teen smoking?
- Decreased level of lung function compared with teens who never smoked
- Reduced rate of lung growth
- Heart disease and stroke
- Decreased level of physical endurance and performance
- Increased heart rate (teen smokers’ resting heart rate are 2 to 3 beats per minute faster than teens who do not smoke)Increased risk of lung cancer
- Increased phlegm production (twice as much as nonsmokers)
- Shortness of breath
- Increased risk for alcohol consumption, as well as marijuana and cocaine use
- Increased likelihood of engaging in risky behaviors such as fighting and casual sex
- Increased risk for mood disorders like anxiety and depression
How can you help your teen quit smoking?
It is important to note that apart from the numerous harmful effects of teen smoking discussed above, teen smokers are also at high risk of developing a nicotine addiction. Studies have shown that young people are more susceptible to developing addictive behavior since their brain is still developing.
Like being addicted to illicit substances, nicotine tends to rewire the brain in a way that they are easily and deeply hooked. Considering this physiological change, it is easy for teens to develop severe nicotine dependence. When this happens, nicotine gums and patches no longer suffice in addressing the problem, which means that the nicotine-dependent teen should enter an inpatient rehab facility similar to other drug-addicted individuals.
Instead of waiting for your teen to become addicted, it is best to help your teen quit smoking at the onset. Here are some practical ways you can do so:
Be a good role model
Whether you realize it or not, your actions influence your children’s behavior in a powerful way. A recent study conducted by Purdue University found that teen smoking is significantly influenced by their parents’ smoking habit. This means that if you do not want to worry about your teen smoking cigarette, make sure to quit your own habit and set a good example.
Encourage your teen to pursue healthy hobbies
The life of a teenager can be stressful and difficult especially since they are undergoing physical, emotional, and social changes. Evidence suggests that teens resort to smoking to cope with stress and intense emotions. Instead of letting your teenage kids deal with stress on their own, encourage them to pursue worthwhile hobbies such as sports, music, or arts, so they have an emotional outlet.
Sit down with your teen and create a plan
While it may seem easier to simply talk with your smoking teen and trust that your conversation will make him or her stop smoking, it is best to sit down with your teen and create a “Quit Smoking” plan. The plan should be specific, time-bound, and measurable so that both of you can readily monitor the progress.
Plan specific ways on how your teen will deal with his smoking friends when they pressure him or her to smoke again and identify ways to deal with cravings and other issues your teen may encounter in his or her journey to quit.
Make your home a smoke-free zone
Quitting smoking is not easy which is why you need to help your child live in an environment that will not tempt him or her to smoke again. Declare your home as a smoke-free zone, which means nobody who enters your premises will be allowed to smoke whether they are guests who smoke heavily or not. Setting limits will help your teen set his own boundaries as well.
Encourage your teenager’s school to implement smoking-free policies
Your teen spends most of his or her time in school, so you should include teachers and school administrators in your quit-smoking plan. You can network with other parents and meet with faculty members and school officials, so you can all come up with activities and projects that will help eradicate teen smoking in the campus.
A parent’s job never stops even though it may seem that your kids are already capable of taking care of themselves. You need to know who your teenage kids hang out with, what they do outside of your home and school, and the things that matter to them.
The tips above are just some of the more practical ways to help your teen quit smoking. Make sure to celebrate milestones and to not be too harsh when your teen slips. Instead of pointing fingers, help your child identify weak points and how to improve them.