Friday, May 25, 2018
Parenting & Relationships

Tell Me About It: Daughter's choice to smoke cigarettes bothers parents

Q: My husband and I are very anti-smoking. Both of his parents died before age 65 due to smoking-related health complications. My mom (a smoker for decades) has reached her 70s, but with a diminished quality of life. We were, therefore, deeply disturbed when our daughter, a junior in college, admitted that she "and a few friends" smoke sometimes.

We are frustrated. We've been discussing this topic since she was a little girl in the context of her sick grandparents. She is a legal adult and we have no idea what we can do, other than to keep nagging her about the dangers. But we see her only when she comes home, which, as she reminded us, she "chooses" to do, but may not always. What else can we do here?

Maryland

A: Nothing. You won't accomplish anything by getting involved except to drive your daughter away. Because your whole issue with her smoking is that you're afraid of losing her, there's just too much irony in driving her out of your lives by harping on her choice. A choice that she made after your discussing it with her. There's little chance this is a coincidence. If she wanted to put some distance between her own identity and yours, then she couldn't have settled on a better wedge, could she?

The best thing you can do is not fuss over the cigs, but instead go the counterintuitive route of giving her your blessing to be herself. Say you love her, say you, of course, will worry when she makes harmful choices, say you will nevertheless keep loving her and supporting her however she needs you to. Butting out included. Shock the heck out of her. She'll believe you only when you stick to that promise at a time she knows you're resoundingly unthrilled with her choices. And when she does believe you, her grounds for rebelling turn to sand.

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