Adolescents And Smoking: What Makes Them Start So Young?

2016 saw some 4 million middle and high schoolers in America using cigarettes and other tobacco products. The good news is tobacco use among youngsters has declined in 5 years. Accordingly, 2016 saw 2 out of 100 middle school kids admitting they smoke – a mere 2.2% from the 4.3% in 2011. Additionally, 8 out of 100 high school students said they use cigarettes – a 7% down from 2011’s 15.8%.


The bad news is 4 million is still a devastatingly big number. Worse, half of the number admits to using two or more tobacco products, meaning, they not only tried smoking classic cigarettes, but they may also have dabbled with vaping, using smokeless tobacco and even smoking marijuana joints.

What compels the young to start smoking at a very early age? The most common reasons might surprise you. You, as a parent, could even be an influencing factor as well.


Your adolescent’s friends greatly influence what habits he picks up at this stage of his life. If his friends smoke, it’s likely that he’ll pick up the habit, too. This is most particularly true if he feels he’ll lose the relationship he has with a girlfriend or the risk of getting shunned by his peers if he doesn’t do it.

“Teens who use these substances often lie to parents, teachers, and others who care about their well-being. They may hide their use or dependence and find ways to use Juuls or dab pens belonging to friends,” said Goali Saedi Bocci, PhD.


Media and Cultural Romanticization

Adolescents and teens may think smoking is okay – even a masculine act for males – because they see it portrayed as such in TV, print ads, shows, and even movies.

A study discovered that young people who are more exposed to cigarette ads are two times more likely to have tried smoking and three times more likely to have been already smoking for the past month. That’s how great the power of media is in influencing young minds.


There’s more chance for an adolescent to pick up the habit if one or both his parents are smokers. Also, if the mother smoked while pregnant, her baby is more predisposed to be a smoker once he or she grows up.


It is very vital for parents to set strict home rules when it comes to smoking. According to one kids’ health site, these rules encourage teens not to smoke or do the act less compared to their counterparts. As they cannot light a cigarette in the comfort of their own homes, they only smoke occasionally, thus, reducing the chances of them becoming regular smokers in the future.

“Tell him that you can’t continue to give him an allowance because you don’t want him to use it on cigarettes and won’t financially support destructive habits,” said Carleton Kendrick, LCSW. “Your teenager might have savings or other income, but your financial sanctions might cause him to think twice before he spends his money on tobacco.”

Part of an Image or Set Up a Rebellion

Adolescents are at the part of their lives where they try to assert their independence or build up an image to the people surrounding them. They may pick up the vice believing it makes them look older, more independent or more self-confident, or they start on the habit to rile up disapproving parents.

Behind the smoking, a teenager could be suffering from depression, lack of self-esteem, stress, and anxiety. It could also be a means your teen uses to control weight gain.



Adolescents and teens can still be quite naïve about reality. They start with a vice even when they know the dire consequences because they think that being young makes them less susceptible to the harmful effects that bad habit brings.

Open communication, love and support, a good parent-child relationship and just being there — these factors go a long way when dealing with your adolescents and their many life issues.

“A parent’s open and transparent sharing with his teen about his own regretted decisions, and the difficulty that has resulted, can have a very positive effect on the decisions the teen makes,” Adi Jaffe PhD.

Your Kids, Alcohol And You

How To Communicate To Your Kids The Dangers Of Inappropriate Alcohol Consumption

Ryan was only 12 years old when he had his first bottle of beer. At 21, he had to enroll himself in an AA [Alcoholic Anonymous] group because of his drinking problem. On the other hand, James got his first taste of wine at the age of 15 from his parents. They even allowed him to get drunk one time during a July 4th family celebration. He said it was his parents’ way of educating him about responsible alcohol consumption. Did it work? James believed it did. He claimed he never binged on alcoholic drinks when he was in college, as he already knew his limitations.


Ryan and James are just two of the many adolescents and teens curious about the many things adults do like consuming alcohol. And the saying curiosity killed the cat proves to be true because young people who experiment on alcohol seem to end up destroying their lives which may ultimately lead to early death or alcoholism.

“The effects and consequences on substance use on families are devastating. Over 7 million children in the United States—more than 10%—live with a parent who has problems with alcohol, according to a 2012 Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration report. These children and their families are at risk for other co-morbid mental health problems, such as depression, anxiety, low self-esteem, substance use issues, and addiction.” said Jeremy Frank, PhD, CADC.

So if you’re a parent of tweens and teens, how are you going to tell them about alcohol? Two experts give their take on this matter.

The Earlier The Better

Some parents think they have to wait until their kids reach their teen years to start talking to them about issues like alcohol. However, a well-known family therapist and a child psychologist believe it is best if the talk is done at an earlier age.

“About 10 to 14 years old — that’s the time most kids start to get curious about alcoholic drinks and consumption and some might even have experimented already to satisfy their curiosity,” the family therapist says to which the psychologist adds: “It’s important to note that most drinkers had their first taste of alcohol at the age of 12.”

“Families that talk and communicate expectations clearly, logically, rationally, and with consideration to age-appropriate context for the child’s development level have a better chance of addressing drinking and alcohol consumptions in a way that promotes responsible behaviors,” said Mayra Mendez, PhD, LMFT.

Keep It Casual But Clear

Both experts agree that no matter how tempting it is to go all out in lecture mode when you talk to your kids about important issues like alcohol, DON’T DO IT.


“An open and positive communication between parents and kids should always be nurtured. This way, the latter won’t feel they have the need to hide their thoughts or whatever they have to say about family issues such as this. And as they look up to their parents for guidance, using a positive approach when talking to them will impose the lessons you want them to learn instead of going totalitarian,” states the child psychologist who has written various books about parenting teenagers.

“And don’t make it sound as if it’s all about rules. Tell them you worry about their wellbeing and that getting drunk could get out of hand resulting in dire consequences,” she adds.

Hear Their Voice And Get Them Involved

Let your tweens and teens know that you care about what they think, too. Let them speak up about their side and stand on the matter, why they think it’s okay to consume alcohol, why it’s not and so on.

“Including them is a must,” says the family therapist. “Teens want to feel like they matter and not just a sounding board of rules. Allow them to talk about their opinions and if these differ from yours, talk to them about it in a calm way.”

Is It Okay To Let Youngsters Consume Alcohol Within The Safety Of The Home?

When asked this question, both experts gave a resounding NO.

“While some parents allow this reasoning because doing so makes the kids safer than going out with their peers to drink illegally elsewhere, it just isn’t right,” they argued. “We all know that there’s always that great possibility that no matter the location, alcohol consumption can always spiral out of control.”


“While this works in some cases, we cannot discount the many instances when youngsters who freely had access to their parents’ alcoholic stash turned out to be alcoholics years later. We just want to lean on the safer side,” they added.

And their last advice?

“You have to know when to ask for help. If your gut tells you your kid is in serious alcohol trouble, believe it and take the necessary steps.”

“Adults are expected to have self-control and choose to consume or not consume alcohol based on knowledge regarding both the risks and health benefits—to drink responsibly. This is not true of children,” said psychologist Arash Emamzadeh.

Dealing With Adolescent Kid In Your Home

Adolescence is the most awkward stage of life.   Hearing things like,

“You’re too old for that.”

“You’re too young to have that.”

“We’re your parents.  Only we know what’s best for you.”
Things start to get confusing.  He begins to question himself, “Am I too old?”  “Am I that young?”  “Where do I belong?”  With this disorientation and confusion, comes his curiosity to find out and discover things himself for himself.


The Anatomy of Adolescence

Adolescence is the period between 13 and 19 years old.  No longer a child, but not yet an adult.  It’s the transitional period.   A time when he starts to explore things and got curious about some changes that are happening in his body.  This is when he starts to seek for independence and tries to build his own identity.

Adolescence Seeking for Independence

“My childhood is a lie.”

This is what your teenager thinks after knowing that you just tricked him every Christmas Eve.   It’s obvious he was betrayed.   How else can he trust words such as,

“We will be here no matter what.”

“We only want what’s best for you.”

“Trust us.This is for your own good.”

Trust?  Just how can he trust you now?

He is the most confusing part of his life.  He no longer knows what to believe.   Thoughts are playing with him that parents don’t know what he wants, what he needs, and what’s best for him.   His parents cannot always save him.   He can only trust himself, and the single person who is always behind him is his friends.

One day you’ll wake up arguing about his independence, letting him do what he wants, the way he wants it.


How to Overcome This Stage of Rebellious Teenage Years

An argument is a familiar sight to every home with teenage kids, and most parents just wanted to give up.   Getting emotionally fed up, they quickly get angry and will try to stop it by shouting or yelling.  Your emotional outbursts and anger will not solve the problem, but would only make it worse.

Settling it through violence is not showing your kid a good example.  How will you deal with your teenager then?

  1. Try to understand the overwhelming changes that your teenager is experiencing, both physical, emotional, and environment. You may be right, he’s no longer a kid, but he’s also not yet mature to understand everything.   He is confused.   You should be there to guide him through.

    “Your teenager may give the impression of not caring what you think, but they need you now as much as ever. Do your best to be openly available for relaxed conversation whenever your child seems to want that,” said Dona Matthews, PhD.

  2. Teenage anger usually is due to frustration and embarrassment. Hormonal changes and peer pressure can also be a factor.  Help them deal with it constructively.   Talk to them.  Know what’s causing them to feel that way.   If things are already out of control, have a psychologist or relatives help you.

    “When families rid themselves of nagging, relationships get infused with more energy and compassion.  Parents get to know and appreciate teenagers for who they are, not just for what they do,” said Marilyn Price-Mitchell, PhD.

  3. Give your teenager space when he asked for it. Sometimes, he needs to sort things out on his own.
  4. Bond with him. Do activities he likes together (check out some recommendations here:  This will help you bring back his trust.
  1. Hug him more. Hugging will help him heal.  This will assure him that you are indeed there for him, giving him a sense of security.
  2. Set goals for him. Make sure he does well in school, but with no pressure.   See if he got responsible set of friends, but never judged his friends.
  3. Guide him in putting a structure in his life. Slowly give him the independence he needed to learn.   Point out that there are boundaries, rules, and consequences.    Trust him that he can do it.

    “Parents let go by giving more independent decision-making responsibility. They do mindfully by specifying what they first need from the teenager before being willing to put that eager young person at risk of more personal freedom,” said Carl E. Pickhardt, PhD.

Adolescent years are just temporary.  You passed through this stage in your life.   Of all people, you are the one who should understand what your teenager is going through.   Always keep an open mind, and he will open up to you.

How To Start Sensitive Conversation With Your Teen (And How To Keep It Going)

Admit it. It can be so hard to communicate with teenagers.

Their attention is normally focused on things that usually annoy parents – smartphone, television, social media, or play station. Sometimes, they even pretend like they can’t hear you by turning up the volume of the music. What makes it even harder for parents is the fact that teenagers are very secretive and sensitive to topics – such as academics, love, dating, sex, relationships, depression, and drugs. Seriously, how can you talk to your teens about these sensitive topics if you can’t even make them talk about how their day was?


The secret? Do it the right way.

Establishing better communication, especially between a parent and a teen, is the key to a healthy relationship. So, start with a simple conversation.

Start the conversation by talking about sports, weather, hobbies, books, etc.

Talking to your teens doesn’t have to be groundbreaking. Also, topics don’t have to be unique. Engage them in a healthy conversation by picking a topic that they enjoy talking about or anything that won’t make them feel like you’re ready to deliver your lecture for the nth time. Teens never want to be lectured. So, always remember to keep the conversation light and casual.

Ask “indirect questions” instead of quickly getting to the point.

As badly as you want to gather information about what your teens are doing and their whereabouts, do not let your anxiety get in the way. For example, instead of asking “Did you drink from last night’s party?”, you might inquire, “Who went to the last night’s party?”

Don’t make it appear like you’re just probing information. Teens are more likely to talk to someone they feel they can trust. So, don’t hurry. Take the right steps. Sooner or later, your teens will start spilling information before you even ask for it.


Avoid distractions and give them your full attention.

Though teens might act uninterested most of the time, they are very sensitive to rejection or seeing someone not interested when they’re talking. If you want to engage your teens in a productive conversation with you, start by not just being physically present. Clear your mind and focus all your attention to listen and to understand them.

Once your teens start talking, DO NOT INTERRUPT.

If you don’t want your mission to fail, make your teen shut down once again, and end the dialogue quickly – do not interrupt your teens when they are talking.

Whatever that is in your head and no matter how badly you want to say it, shut your mouth for a while and keep listening. Teens love to express themselves. Hear them out and make them feel that you are there to understand and support them.

Keep calm and don’t be judgmental.

Adolescence is the time your teens experiment on new things. Hence, it is inevitable that they commit mistakes. No matter how small or big their mistakes are and for whatever reason they did what they did, hear them out before getting into a conclusion. Never ever judge them. Try to remain calm and address the situation in a very appropriate manner. Teenagers, when they get even the slightest inkling of disapproval, will most likely end the conversation.


Finally, don’t overreact.

Teens might be upsetting, sometimes. They can make you angry. However, don’t let your emotions drive you away from building a healthy conversation and relationship with your teen.

The 5 Vital Things You Need To Talk With Your Tween

Kids grow up so fast. One day, we’ll just wake up wondering where our cute little boys and girls go and how our chubby-cheeked angels got replaced with these sulking, rebelling tweens living with us.These trains of thoughts aside, we have to remember that we went through this very same life phase our tweens are going through – puberty.

Continue reading The 5 Vital Things You Need To Talk With Your Tween

5 Common Mistakes Parents Do When Dealing With Teens


When your child reaches his preteen years, it is also the time you have to tweak your parenting skills a bit. After all, your child is not a little kid anymore. You can deal with him the way you did when he was just two or six or ten years old.

Aside from the physical changes you see, you’ll notice that your child was far from that little angel some six or seven years ago. He could get moody a lot. He’d be stubborn, would easily speak out his mind and assert a little independence now and then. Additionally, you’ll have to start thinking about dealing with preteen and teen issues like friends, dating, work and even getting his car.

In preparation for your kid reaching the stage of puberty, here are five of the most common mistakes parents do when parenting tweens and teens.

  1. We read too many parenting books on teens and expect the words in the pages to translate into our realities.

Every family is different, that’s a fact. What parenting methods worked for the authors of various parenting books may not work for you and your family. Parenting doesn’t come with a yardstick by which you measure your skills and abilities as a parent. You have to trust your instinct when it comes to it.

Of course, there’s nothing wrong with reading parenting books. But use the knowledge you gained as a perspective on what’s it like to be parents to kids who are transitioning from childhood into adulthood. Don’t get disappointed with yourself and your children when you try the things you read from its pages and they turn out to be failures.

2.We either over discipline or under discipline our tweens and teens.

Sensing that their children are changing not just physically, some parents crack down on every single misstep they do. Others are afraid to show any adverse reactions to how their teens act for fear that they will push them away.

Finding the equilibrium between giving teens their freedom and setting up their limitations is a role every parent must do. Emphasizing obedience too much might put them in line, but you’ll also demean their decision-making abilities, an essential tool they’ll need to be independent adults. Too little discipline is also not beneficial for your teens who still need the structure you can give as they find their places in this world.

“By insisting on absolute control, parents can foster an unhealthy dependency in the growing teenager: ‘I learned to do whatever I am forcibly told,'” said Carl E. Pickhardt, PhD.

  1. We fuss about the little stuff.

We don’t need to break our fuses with our teenage daughter or son’s choice of clothing or the way they’re styling their hair or even their accessory picks. If you feel like talking to them about it, though, do. Finding common ground on these matters is the key to setting things down with your teen. Allow them to exercise their decision-making skills and let them learn from their own mistakes. It’s part of growing up.

  1. We ignore the big guns.

However, if you feel like your teens are in trouble, they most likely are. Call it a parent’s intuition. Do you see signs your tween or teen’s into vices like smoking or, worse, is doing drugs? Feel like he’s keeping bad company?  Or is your teen becoming secretive and a bit moody lately? Don’t ignore these red flags. Talk to them in a gentle and non-judgmental way. Having an open companionable relationship between both parties help a lot, so nurture this kind of rapport with your kids even before they reach their teenage years.

“The alternative to nagging is to develop a relationship that communicates to your teen, ‘You are enough.’ Young people need to feel heard and understood—to know that parents support, not judge them,” said Marilyn Price-Mitchell, PhD.

  1. We always expect the worst from our tweens and teens.

Most parents almost always expect their teenagers to have some loose screws during this stage.

But having negative expectations for your teenage son or daughter means you are setting them up for failure. As one study showed, teens whose parents expected the worse in them ended up doing that!

Instead of setting your eyes on your teenager’s “bad” deeds, why not focus on the positive things he has – his interests, talents, hobbies, and the like? He may not be that cherubic little boy anymore who hangs on to your every word, but it isn’t too late to learn something new from your child.

“Parents should also help their teens to set realistic expectations and keep things in perspective,” said Sara Villanueva, PhD. “If we allow our children to fall, they can learn from their mistakes (called natural consequences) and pick themselves back up.”

With all the changes they’re going through, teens need your parental love and care more than ever. They’ll get angry at your authority, sure, but you’re the solid ground they tread on as they navigate these most trying years of their lives.