I am easy prey on the Internet. Whenever I open my AOL account to check my e-mail, which is a gazillion times a day, I see what "news" is on the home page. Because I can be a shallow person, I am immediately attracted to the "train wreck" stories about some celebrity or another. Today I read a story about Madonna's 15 year daughter Lourdes who was photographed smoking some cigs with her New York friends. They captured the light up, and the first draw of the cigarette, in addition to commenting on her "fabulous" outfit. I feel really bad for any celebrity's children's who are not afforded the privacy that other kids get to have when they are sneaking cigarette smoking from their parents. But that's not what interested me particularly when I saw this picture.
I immediately began reminiscing about my own teen bout with smoking when I was 13 which continued until I was 21, when I started hating the smell of tobacco on my hands, hair and clothes. Pretty much all my friends started smoking in their teens as well, and continued well into adulthood when the health scares of smoking really hit the airways. When our parents "caught" us smoking, none of them were concerned with the health problems of smoking, after all this was the 1960's and all of our parents were smokers. Instead the argument against smoking, and drinking for that matter, was that it "degraded" the way you looked to the public. No parent wanted his/her kids to look like "juvenile delinquents" and smoking and drinking cast a bad light on '"the family." Well, isn't that exactly what teens want to do? Look and act as completely opposite to your parents as you can. So telling us we looked like juvenile delinquents was a motivator not a detractor. Now had they shown us pictures of diseased lungs, and damaged brains, maybe we would have reconsidered our behavior.
Seeing this picture of Lourdes smoking cigarettes sparked the "oh this poor kid is gonna get addicted to cigarettes and she is only 15, we have to help her" response. Her lungs will be black before she is 20! So much of what we fear for our children now, is the reality of how dangerous these teen "rites of passages" truly are. Yes kids will be kids, and teens will be teens, but now we have so much more information about the temptations of the teenage years, and want so much to keep our teens safe.
Seeing Lourdes smoking reminded me of how important it is for kids to have the graphic, emotionally laden information about the real dangers of smoking, drinking, and all manner of drugs, be they prescription or illegal. Rather than the lecture of how bad this stuff is, share photos, stories, and statistics like those I wrote in last weeks blog on alcohol's effect on the brain. Telling your kids its 'wrong" to do this stuff is actually encouraging, sharing your own fears for their safety will hopefully do the opposite.