Topic 3 What to Do if You Suspect that Your Teenager Has Started Smoking?

Case study: Your 13 year old daughter comes home from school, is very tired and asks you to open her schoolbag to take out her personal notebook. Rummaging in her bag you find a lighter at the bottom. You ask her what it is and she tells you that she found it on a park bench and decided to put it away so a small child wouldn’t find it and hurt themselves with it. You immediately suspect that your child has tried tobacco products.

Here are some tips that you could use in practice if you find yourself in such a situation.

If you suspect that your teenager has started experimenting with smoking:

  • Find out why your teen has experimented and try not to ask questions that sound like you are interrogating him. Rephrase them into an observation or remark such as “Hey, I notice that you have started smoking” which sounds less accusing.
  • Listen to their views with an open mind and they will feel more willing to listen to your views. They’ll also feel more comfortable sharing their problems with you.
  • Pay attention when your teenager wants to share their thoughts with you. Try not to interrupt or rush to give your comments while they are talking. Offer suggestions instead of criticism. These are more effective in the long term.
  • It’s best not to be sarcastic with replies such as “You are too young to understand” or “I don’t care what your friends say”.
  • Refrain from nagging, shouting, threatening or using emotional blackmail. These may hurt your teenager’s feelings and make him want to smoke more, just to irritate you.
  • If you get frustrated and angry halfway through the discussion, tell your teenager to give you some time to calm down. Do not just walk away or ignore him. Remember that the discussion is about them, not you.
  • Believe it when your teenager complains about peer pressure to try smoking. You may feel that it is easy to resist, but it is difficult for a teenager.
  • Suggest ways for your teenager to turn down cigarette offers without offending their friends. Look at their personality. If your child is shy, they can say “No thanks, I don’t like the taste” or make an excuse to leave. If your child is outgoing, they can laugh it off and say “No way! It’s not my style!”
  • Remind them that they can find and hang out with friends who are non-smokers. If they have to be around smokers, your teen can bring these non-smoking friends along for support. Helping your child steer clear of smoking takes time, effort and understanding. By being there for them you will not only get closer, you’ll also better understand what your teen is going through.

A game of compliments

Goal: To improve the psychological climate in the family environment, to create a positive atmosphere, to maintain a positive emotional environment at home.

Extended family members (grandparents, cousins, other relatives) can also be involved.


  • All participants are given felt-tip pens and sheets of paper to write their name at the top.
  • Then, each participant has to write something positive in the other’s sheets – a character trait, a behaviour they like in them.
  • When finished, each person takes his or her sheet and reads the things listed in front of everyone, beginning with the phrase: “I am…”.

Important: The group encourages each person who reads the compliments received, makes sure each compliment is prefaced with “I am…” and finally applauds each person who has read the compliments addressed to them.