This post is sponsored by CVS Health.
Do you cringe a little bit inside when you think about talking to your tween about health and his or her body? I used to. But not anymore. I found a system that is working really well for me. And best of all, it is simple.
Before I start, it helps to remember that kids want to know about how to keep their bodies healthy. They don't set out thinking, "How can I ruin my lungs by smoking, or ruin my body with toxic chemicals?" They want to know how they can run faster, make intelligent decisions, keep their blood pumping, their lungs strong and healthy. They love knowledge and are empowered by facts to make smart decisions.
I want my son and his peers to have the right information because if more is not done to reduce youth smoking rates in the U.S. an estimated 5.6 million children alive today will die early from smoking. We can do better than that.
As part of its campaign to help deliver the first tobacco-free generation (which would be awesome! Can you even imagine how wonderful that would be?), CVS Health has partnered with educational publisher Scholastic to develop free “Get Smart About Tobacco” materials that teach grades 6–7 students important health and science facts to help them stay tobacco-free. This new program provides a wealth of educational activities I know you will appreciate. There is a student magazine, a hands-on lung science experiment, classroom lessons, and worksheets. All of the materials support standards in health, science, and English language arts. Tobacco use still remains the leading preventable cause of disease and death in the United States, causing an estimated 480,000 deaths each year.
OK. On to my four "secret" tips:
ONE: Just do it. This seems obvious, but as parents we sometimes think we have to prepare ourselves for a major event. That's not true. The best time to talk to your tween is right now. (It's okay to wait until you've finished reading this article.)
TWO: Be totally honest—and totally matter of fact. I don't act like everything is a huge deal. If I want my kids to avoid something like alcohol, drugs, or tobacco, I don't scream "IT WILL TOTALLY RUIN YOUR LIFE FOREVER AND EVER!!" I might say (in a totally calm voice, with no caps) that it will interfere with achieving your goals, or keep you from having control over your brain, or increase your chances of lung cancer, or whatever might be relevant at the moment. And I use facts to underscore my points. Facts, not scare tactics.
THREE: Do it often. You don't have to have one big conversation. You don't have to sit down for 90 minutes. In my experience that is not an effective way of getting through to my kids. Instead, I sprinkle comments throughout our everyday activities. I think this is the biggest reason why my kids are already anti-tobacco. When we walk by a group of people creating a cloud of smoke, I'll point out how unpleasant it is for us. Or unhealthy for us. Or if we've just exhausted ourselves climbing out of the 63rd Street subway station I might observe how much more difficult it would have been if we didn't exercise and take care of ourselves. (Side note: Have you ever climbed out of that station? Oh my goodness.)
FOUR: Allow privacy. Providing downtime for kids to absorb what you've told them is essential! I can tell that my son processes what we've talked about when he comes back to me with questions or with a spontaneous comment another time. The other day, when we were walking past a clinic, my 11-year-old pointed out, "Isn't it ironic how that doctor over there is smoking?" (Side note: I was extremely excited that he used the word "ironic.")
Crucial, however, in my opinion, is material they can peruse in private. This could be books about growing bodies, writing down their thoughts (you could even provide some writing prompts), or magazines like the free Scholastic student magazine about tobacco use.
So you see, it's not hard. But we do have to do it. Talk, trust, share, and listen. In fact, number five would be LISTEN to their questions and respond. With honesty, of course.
More resources for teachers and families:
You can find useful health, science, and ELA materials at the Get Smart About Tobacco resource center, including:
- Stay Smart About Tobacco student magazine
- Hands-on science experiment to learn about the lungs (great for summer learning)
- Teacher lessons and worksheets (planning for the 2016–17 school-year)
- Mini-poster about tobacco facts. (Hint: Tape this to the back of the bathroom door. That *might* be a good place where they will have to look at it often.)
Good luck with your tweens! Stay healthy! (Or "healthful," depending on your grammar uptightness.)
This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of CVS Health. The opinions and text are all mine. Comments submitted may be displayed on other websites owned by the sponsoring brand.