(ARA) - Every mother wants her children to grow up successful, healthy and strong. She works hard to encourage them to eat healthy, get good grades in school and be well-rounded individuals.
But sometimes, negative influences and unhealthy choices keep children from growing up to their healthiest potential. Choosing to smoke is one of these unhealthy decisions. So how do you help protect your children from these influences and encourage them to make healthy choices?
"Real Parents. Real Answers." is a Youth Smoking Prevention Program sponsored by Lorillard Tobacco Company, designed to encourage parents to talk with their children about not smoking. The site - found at www.RealParentsRealAnswers.com - includes interactive videos, quizzes and plenty of educational background information for parents.
"The goal is to help children make a decision to never experiment with cigarettes, because it's possible that for some children, just one cigarette could lead to a lifetime addiction to smoking," says Dr. Michael Popkin, spokesman for the youth smoking prevention program. "Use the advice provided by other parents at RealParentsRealAnswers.com, and watch the videos with your children to help start the discussions on keeping them smoke free."
Some tips to help get the conversations started include:
* Sit down with your child and ask them what they know about cigarettes. Ask your child to participate, and share, so she doesn't feel like you're lecturing her. Answer any questions honestly, and if you don't know an answer, do some research together. If sitting at the kitchen table is too "confrontational," consider moving the discussion outside on a walk or while driving the car.
* Express feelings with your child. Let them know what it is about addictive behaviors that scares you. You may also want to share your personal history to help them understand any challenges you or someone you love may have had to overcome.
* Discuss the other facets of smoking, like costs, smell and even how repeated smoking can change physical appearances.
* Come up with ideas on how your children can respond to the question "Want to try a cigarette?" Let your daughter use her personality to develop the answers in different ways - humor, factual, persuasive, or even by asking a question back - so she is comfortable saying "no" in her own way.
* Repeat the conversation. When was the last time you had to tell your child to do something just once? Talking about not smoking often will help ensure the message is communicated, and it will make having similar discussions easier as your children get older and are exposed to other types of unhealthy behaviors.
Also ask your child to take the "Tobacco-Free Me" pledge at www.RealParentsRealAnswers.com. Children can pledge to remain smoke-free, and print out a certificate that you can hang in their room, or in another place of honor, as a visual reminder of the promise. Children who take the pledge will receive free gifts like a backpack pin or a car magnet.
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