Monday 18 December 2017

Dear Mary: We’re so upset that our daughter smokes

My husband and I are very anti-smoking. Both of his parents died before the age of 65 due to health complications related to smoking. My mother, who smoked all 
her life, has reached her 70s, but with a severely diminished quality of life.

You can imagine then how upset we were when our daughter, who is away studying in college, came home and all her clothes smelt of cigarettes — and then I came home unexpectedly and found her smoking in the garden.

When we asked her about it, she got mad at us, asking why we were interfering and invading her privacy — and then admitted that she has an occasional cigarette. She has known all her life about our views on cigarettes, and we couldn’t believe that she would go against everything we believe in. She has always heard us speak of our concerns in relation to her grandparents, especially after her paternal grandparents’ deaths quite close together.

I know that she is entitled to do what she wants but I can’t believe that such an intelligent person can be so stupid.

Other than nagging her about it we have no idea what we can do. We see her only when she comes home on an occasional visit, and we never see her during the summer as she always gets a summer job abroad.

She has even said to us that she may not come home so much in the future if we keep on about the cigarettes. But I feel I wouldn’t be doing my job as a mother if I didn’t impress on her just how much she is putting her health in jeopardy. Any suggestions about what else we can do?

Mary replies: You really can’t do anything very much. Your daughter is an adult and entitled to do whatever she wants to, even though some of what she does may be injurious to her health. You are only building walls between you,
and giving her grounds not to return home so often in the future if she feels that she is going to be nagged endlessly about her smoking.

She is probably in her late teens or early 20s, and as such needs to rebel a little. This is part of the cutting loose phase that everybody goes through in order to make the successful transition into adulthood.

Of course smoking is terribly harmful to her health but she knows this from everything 
you have said to her over the years, and I presume there is a smoking ban in place 
in your home.

So this is a time when you have to back off, say no more about her bad habit and hope that it will pass.

Who knows? She may meet a partner who is very anti-smoking, and that usually works far faster than recriminatory parents.

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