She's 14 And She Smokes

Local police attend to a car that spun off the road on Route 9, Sunday April 15, 2007, in Henniker, N.H. The powerful nor'easter brought wind and snow to northern New England, including 17 inches to parts of Vermont, while also threatening to create some of the worst coastal flooding in 14 years.
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What to do with a 14-year-old daughter who smokes? And how to reassure a grown child that it is okay to leave the nest? Counselor Mike Riera says how you communicate can make the difference.

She's Young and She Smokes

Dear Mike,

I've seen cigarettes in my 14-year-old daughter's pocketbook. I violated her privacy, but I feel being nosy is the only way to know the truth on my daughter's activities. I have confronted her about the cigarettes in her possession before, and she says they are her girlfriend's. (I've also had numerous talks with her about smoking, drugs, drinking, and sex.) How can I tackle this without her knowing I went into her purse? How do I get her to quit?

Bonnie in Oakland, California

If she is already hooked on cigarettes, she's in for a tough road ahead. Research shows that the population that has the most difficulty quitting cigarettes is teen-agers.

Her smoking, despite your well-intentioned (and, from the sound of it, well-done) efforts, the stark reality of parenting teen-agers: You have influence but not control.

From your letter, it sounds like you have ample "evidence" to confront her without talking about the purse. Reference the previous times and any other suspicions you have, including smell of cigarettes and friends who smoke.

Focus on your relationship. There is nothing you can say or do to get her to quit. That's her decision. Your best bet is your relationship with one another. Say something like: "I think you're smoking and I'm concerned for your health. But before you say anything, understand that our relationship is more important to me than if you're smoking or not. So be truthful. And if you are smoking I'll work with you to quit, when you're ready to quit. Just don't push me out of your life by lying."

If you have a question for Mike Riera about dealing with your teen, send an email to with "Ask Mike" in the subject line. Or write to "Ask Mike" The Saturday Early Show, 514 West 57th St., 6th floor, New York, N.Y. 10019. Your question may be featured on future shows.

Leaving Home

Dear Mike,

My daughter is a student at a local college and commutes to school. She would like to transfer to an out-of-state college. My problem is that I am a single parent, and we have a very close relationship, so she is hesitant to transfer because she is worried that I will be lonely. How do I convince her otherwise?

Susan in Miami, Florida

I don't have to tell you how difficult it is to be a single parent. And from the sound of it, you have done a good job. But from your child's perspective, it's you and her against the wold. This means she's watched you sacrifice for her-working extra hours, playing good and bad parent, coming to her activities, and being there when she needed you.

On some level she can't imagine going forward without you, so she imagines it is the same for you. Thus, any fear she has about leaving (and every kid, no matter what they look like on the outside, fears leaving home for the first time) she turns into guilt about leaving you on your own.

With a slight twist, the adage "A picture is worth a thousand words" applies here. Your daughter needs to see you taking care of yourself while she is still living at home before she will ever move away to college.

This means she needs to see you spending time with friends, having good times away from her, and yes, even dating! For your daughter's sake, as well as your own, show off to her a bit. Move on with your life as a single woman. You'll always be her mom, but now you are able to move into the next phase of your life.