1. I need a breath of fresh air.
"I enjoy smoking and have done for the last 20 years – my new partner and my two adult children are ganging up on me to get me to stop. Should I continue as it gives me pleasure or do what they want?"
No matter what your family say it’s you who decides whether to stop smoking or not. But it might help your decision to know or be reminded of some facts about smoking and not smoking.
Continuing to smoke is typically based on what we could call faulty assumptions – for example: ‘enjoyment’ (vs. release from withdrawal), ‘choice’ (vs. addiction), ‘great taste’ (vs. ice cream!), and ‘just one more won’t hurt’ (vs. real health risks). The first step to stopping, or, crucially wanting to stop, may be re-evaluating the facts and what you actually get out of smoking.
Those who succeed in stopping smoking, find immediate benefits in terms of improved health (breathing, less infections), increased energy, as well as social benefits (smell, teeth colour) and financial savings. Do these possible benefits persuade you?
If you decide to try and stop, be positive about your ability to reduce and stop – many people try and many succeed. Remind yourself often why you are doing this. Set a date now for starting a smoke-free future. Think positively about not smoking and what that will be like. Help yourself persevere by avoiding situations where you are likely to feel like lighting up; keep busy, reduce pub time or time spent with other smokers who inadvertently put pressure on you to smoke as well. Maybe start some light exercise. This will make you feel less like a cigarette and also make you feel better. Remember also, that once you stop your lung capacity will increase and you will feel more energetic.
Your family must care deeply about you and want you to stay fit and well. If you decide to stop smoking, talk to them – they will all support and encourage you to stick it out. At the end of the day, once you succeed you may well be adding years onto your life, which is time you can all enjoy together.
Let me know how you get on. Good Luck.
2. Why can’t my parents treat me more as an adult?
"I’m at University near enough to see my parents most weekends. I also talk to them regularly on the phone. I find conversation’s with them hard work as they often put my ideas down. They don’t like my friends and often criticize me for the hours I keep. This makes me feel down and demoralized. How can they be persuaded to treat me as more of an adult."
I think a straw poll on many university and college students would show they have similar feelings about ‘not being understood’ by their parents on one or more issues. Does this mean that most or all parents are hyper-critical and negative? Maybe some are some of the time like all of us, including you and me. But, I think a more helpful view is that parents and young adults have different agendas, don’t they, and this colours how their conversations go.
For example, a student is likely to be ‘spreading his/her wings’ and finding out what it’s like being away from home with more freedom and independence to go out whenever, meet lots of new and interesting people and have many new experiences. Meanwhile parents on the one hand want their offspring to experiment and mature but are also concerned about any potential risks. Their job is to be supportive and encouraging and help to highlight these risks. The student’s level of experimentation and the parent’s style of ‘highlighting the risks’ can cause friction, resulting in poor communication and low self-esteem in both student and parents. So what to do?
Firstly try and understand why your parents sometimes react seriously to your behaviour. Don’t expect them always to handle these conversations perfectly – their main feeling is one of concern for you and your welfare.
If at all possible, keep the talking channels open and tell them as many of the things that you do or plan as you can. You may not always agree with what they say but its important and helpful to know their views – see it as them caring not being critical. Try and tell your parents what’s going on rather than hide things from them.
Above all, do everything you can to keep your mood and self-esteem up high – the happier you are and the more worthwhile your relationships, the more confident you will be to discuss and debate issues with mum and dad. When you talk to your parents, although your main preoccupation will be what is going on in your life, try sometimes to focus on topics that show them you’re interested in them and what they do. Your interest in and concern for them will make you feel good and help them to worry less about you. Remember, your parents want you to feel good and be a successful, independent person. Remember also that your parents, probably experimented themselves at your age – ask them about it. They might even tell you.
Dr. Hugh Koch is a clinical psychologist and co-author with his son James, of ‘Active Steps to reducing stress’.