How to talk to your parents about their smoking
Be patient and stay positive as much as you can
Written by spunout
Fact checked by experts and reviewed by young people.
It can be upsetting and stressful to see a parent or guardian smoking and harming their health. If you’re concerned about a parent or guardian who smokes, having a conversation with them about how you’re feeling can help them to see how it’s affecting you. Talking to them in a respectful, kind and compassionate way about the effects of smoking might help them quit. In fact, many smokers say that the concern of their family and friends, especially their children, is a strong motivator to try to quit.
Talking to your parents about their smoking
If you decide to talk to your parent or guardian about their smoking, it’s worth considering a few things. Not all smokers are ready to quit, even if they know they should. If they are not ready to quit, you need to respect their decision and let them know that you’ll support them when they are ready to try.
It’s also important to remember that you are not responsible for your parents’ or guardians’ behaviour, even if you feel like you are. At the end of the day, they are the ones making their own decisions.
Here are some things you could try when you sit down with your parent or guardian to talk about their smoking.
Try to be honest and clear in stating your feelings and needs. It’s a good idea to start with “I” statements, like “I feel” or “I am worried” rather than “you” as it can sometimes sound like you are accusing them.
Try to avoid scolding them about their smoking. It’s difficult to give up smoking, and people don’t like to be reminded that they are doing something unhealthy, and scolding them might not work. Instead, focus on how their smoking makes you feel, and that you wanted them to know that you’re concerned about it.
Listen to what they have to say
It’s important that your parent or guardian feels heard and not judged. Listen to what they have to say, and ask questions where you can. Try to understand their side of the story as best you can.
Focus on the benefits
Quitting smoking has lots of benefits, both for your health, your mind and your finances. Remind them that when people quit smoking they often feel healthier, happier and have more energy.
Read more about the benefits of quitting smoking.
Offer to help out where you can
Sometimes stress can stop people from quitting smoking. Smoking a cigarette might be the only way they feel they can relax when they feel overwhelmed. While people might think it helps, it actually increases their stress levels.
Try to lessen their stress where you can by offering to lend a hand. You could offer to help out more around the house or help make morning and evening routines a little more manageable.
Encourage their self-care
There are lots of ways to help manage stress that don’t involve reaching for a cigarette.
Encourage your parent or guardian to try some different self-care activities, like exercise, meditation or reading a good book. You can also suggest doing them together. Find out more about managing stress without smoking.
Help them pick a date and make a plan
Some people when giving up smoking set their sights on a specific date as a starting point for quitting.
You could help them circle a date on a calendar or mark one in their phone. Your parent or guardian might feel more supported this way.
You can also help them come up with a plan for quitting and figure out what would work best for them.
Read more about how to quit smoking.
Help them to develop a quit plan or reach out for help
Quitting is more successful when you have a plan in place. Visiting a GP, pharmacist or contacting the HSE Quit team are all ways to develop a quit plan. It’s also worth letting them know about treatments like Nicotine Replacement Therapy (NRT), which can double the chances of quitting.
You can encourage them to visit Quit.ie for tips on how to stop smoking or call the Quitline on Freephone 1800 201 203 to talk to someone who understands and who can help them quit.
Quitting smoking is not an easy thing to do, especially if your parent or guardian has been smoking for a long time.
Be patient with them and remind them that you understand it’s a big change and that you are proud of them for making the decision to quit.
People don’t always quit on their first try and they might relapse. If they do, let them know they shouldn’t beat themselves up and that you are there to support them. You can also encourage them to try again.
Remind them of the supports that are available
Cravings for cigarettes and feelings of withdrawal can be upsetting and stressful for the person giving up smoking. But, there are different supports available to help make the process easier.
You can remind your parent or guardian that there are Nicotine Replacement Therapies (NRT) out there, like patches, gums and lozenges. A GP or pharmacist should be able to help them find the right kind of NRT for them.
Encourage them to visit Quit.ie for tips on how to stop smoking or call the Quitline on Freephone 1800 201 203 to talk to someone who understands and who can help them quit.
Celebrate important quitting dates together, like one week or month smoking-free. You can both pick them out together and think of fun things to do to mark the occasion.
Even if your parent or guardian slips up and has a cigarette, it’s important to stay positive. Try not to get angry at their mistake, but encourage them to quit and remind them how proud you are of them for doing it.
Get help and support to QUIT smoking
- Talk to your GP or pharmacist about Nicotine Replacement Therapy.
- Visit Quit.ie for tips on how to stop smoking.
- Call the Quitline on Freephone 1800 201 203 to talk to someone who understands and can help you quit.
- Head to the Quit.ie Facebook page to read stories from others who have quit smoking and to share your own.
- Find more information on quitting smoking at spunout.ie/quit
Disclaimer: There is more than one way to quit smoking. You may need to try a few different things to find what is right for you. For advice and support on quitting, visit spunout.ie/QUIT.