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So Kurt (Cobain), our son with ADHD, has started smoking.

I’m devastated. How can our teenagers still be smoking?

How Can Our Teenagers Still Be Smoking?

No Smoking by machechyp at http://www.flickr.com

His decision isn’t exactly a surprise – smoking is a rite of passage for a lot of those rebellious teenagers who are drawn to living life on the edge.

It can provide a sense of belonging and community with their peers; during what can be a tough ride through adolescence.

And, unfortunately, kids with ADHD are particularly drawn to all types of self-medication.

But it is obviously another ‘fail’ to add to my list of parenting failures; another blow to my ‘mother’s guilt’.

This is Kurt’s first self-expression choice that has potentially serious health implications. Even worse; I can’t control this choice. Simply wanting him to stop smoking isn’t enough.

Have you ever tried ‘reasoning’ with a teenager hell-bent on self-destruction?

‘Never smoke’ was probably my biggest mantra as a parent; which is probably why he’s started. It’s a simple act of teenage rebellion. I obviously caught on too late to the whole reverse psychology strategy in parenting.

But this is the most bitter parenting pill to swallow.

(So far!)

Obviously, I have thought about ways of bribing convincing Kurt to stop, but have come to my usual conclusion of ‘not having a f*cking clue’ (like I have with most of the parenting problems lobbed at me by our teenagers) – so this time I am trying the mature path, by meeting Kurt halfway. (Then I’ll simply cut him out of my will in bitter retribution, later on).

Unlike his fad for dressing up publicly in bizarre costumes, I also feel guilty about Kurt’s new form of ‘self-expression’ because I was a smoker. And I am probably his most important role model.

Although, I don’t think Kurt remembers me hiding furtively behind the shed puffing on a ciggie, while he hyper-focused on Bob The Builder, I have always been honest with him about my smoking and my regret of the habit. But now Kurt is using this information to his advantage, with ill-concealed delight.

Every time I warn him gently about the dangers of smoking, with a ‘you’re going to die a slow and painful death from lung cancer,’ he reacts defensively by reminding me that I will probably go first.

Personally, I find it hard to believe that he could be so stupid after the hours of PDHPE lessons he has obviously wasted on the subject – hours that could have been spent on extra maths, say. And how can teenagers ignore those gross pictures on the cigarette packets anyway?

And he did make a solemn promise to me at the age of five that he would never smoke. So this is a trust issue too.

Of course, being an ex-smoker, I knew he was smoking before he knew I knew. I can smell nicotine across a suburb. Eventually I found the butts killing my window plants and filling our gutters and then I caught him red-handed hanging out of his attic window, (a firetrap if ever there was one) and I completely flipped my lid. I’m not very good at ‘calmly confronting issues’ that scare the sh*t out of me.

Because I’m terrified for him.

Suffice it to say that the words ‘lung cancer’ and ‘f*cking idiot’ were recurring nouns in my composed explanation of why he had to stop smoking IMMEDIATELY.

Of course he hasn’t. I’m not sure he can now.

So we have imposed sanctions. 

We are not funding his habit nor condoning it, but how do we get him to stop? We know he’ll continue to smoke away from home, whether we forbid it or not. It is a way of proving his manhood, like drinking – Kurt is letting us know that he is old enough to make his own choices and wants to be taken seriously.

While I am losing control and slowly going mad.

Trying to control his habit by severing all links to cash hasn’t worked either because his smoking friends supply him. They obviously don’t have the same respect for Kurt’s lungs as me.

Smokers need smoking friends – it’s a smoker’s only real justification – even I remember that part of the addiction.

Kurt’s ADHD coach told me that smoking will be a way for him to ease his anxiety and has advised us to focus on the bigger issues in his life, like his poor socialization skills, his  need to cavort naked around the house flaunting his manhood, (especially when his sister is in his vicinity) and getting him through school.

But I know that once addicted, smoking is a habit that Kurt will never truly get rid of, rather like a tattoo. And having packs of Marlborough within lighting distance in the house is sorely testing my own self-discipline, (being in a heightened state of anxiety myself).

Once an addict, always an addict.

I can already hear Nicotine tapping me on the shoulder again, taunting me, always there in the wings waiting, whenever I find myself at a vulnerable point in my life. I just pray that Kurt won’t become its newest recruit.

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