When children are caught smoking

Dear Diane,

Last week, when I was out on my nightly walk, I sprang my daughter and her friend at the local park – smoking. I don’t know who was more horrified – me, or her. The crazy thing about it is that this generation knows the dangers of cigarettes. When my daughter was younger she would run away from people smoking on the street. Her dad and I used to laugh as she seemed to think a single waft of second-hand smoke would give her lung cancer!

She’s been very sheepish about the recent episode and assures me it was a one-off, but it has still destroyed the trust between us and I don’t know how we’ll move on. She’s 15, by the way.


Dear Sally,

While I might agree with you that this generation knows the dangers of cigarettes, we do need to acknowledge that we – the parental generation – continue to set a bad example to our children when it comes to concerns about health, safety or sensible living. We also let our children watch a parade of unhealthy living through electronic screens.

No amount of your whining, lecturing, nagging or punishing – and no amount of her promising, yelling, pleading or crying – is going to solve the issue you now have. One way of restoring the trust between you and your daughter is to hand the problem over to her. Say to her calmly, “I can no longer trust you and your friend to go out unsupervised together. Until I can, you will need adult supervision when you go out. Let me know when you have found a way of showing me that you are trustworthy. I know you can find a way.”

This way, you have shown confidence in her ability to become trustworthy and come up with a plan that will convince you. This problem-resolution tactic usually takes a few weeks to play out, but it almost always results in our children acknowledging their responsibility and coming up with a feasible plan.

Diane Levy provides expert answers to your parenting queries. Send your questions to: [email protected] Diane’s parenting books are available in book shops.

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