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Self-esteem: A top tool for empowering kids to stay smoke-free

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Posted: Tuesday, May 27, 2014 10:00 pm | Updated: 1:36 am, Thu Sep 25, 2014.

(BPT) - Each day, 4,000 American children take up smoking, according to the Food and Drug Administration. Most are probably aware of the health risks, but the internal pressure they place on themselves to fit in with peers can drive their decision to try that first cigarette. Self-esteem – and the conviction that they deserve the better health that comes from smoke-free living – can go a long way toward ensuring kids never begin smoking.

“Parental dialogue and role-modeling are important if parents want to keep kids from smoking, but helping children build self-esteem, teaching them to trust in their own value as people – those things are also vital,” says Dr. Michael Popkin, author of numerous parenting books, co-founder of Active Parenting Publishing, and spokesman for the Real Parents Real Answers youth smoking prevention program sponsored by Lorillard Inc. “Kids can learn to withstand internal and external pressures by building and practicing self-discipline and self-respect.”

Popkin, who will host a Google+ Hangout on July 10 to help parents learn esteem-building tactics, offers some advice for parents to help keep kids smoke free:

* Avoid focusing on mistakes and weaknesses. While errors in judgment are learning opportunities, parents should help children discern the lesson and then move on. Dwelling on past mistakes can lead children to believe they’re not capable of making better decisions.

* Believe in your child’s abilities and he will believe in himself, too. At the same time, it’s important to keep your expectations realistic. Encourage children to be the best they can be, but don’t hold them to an unachievable standard.

* Nurture strengths and growth, rather than emphasizing a specific end result. Success will be a natural outgrowth of developing children’s strengths.

* Stimulate independence. Children learn by doing, and that includes learning how to make good decisions by making their own choices. Parents will need to make some decisions for kids, of course, but whenever it’s appropriate for children to do so, parents should allow them to make their own decisions.

* Give yourself credit. As parents, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed by the challenge of helping guide kids toward good choices. Acknowledge that it’s not an easy task, and that by seeking guidance, help and advice you’re striving to do the best you can for your children.

Popkin has authored an e-book about helping children build self-esteem. It’s available online at www.realparentsrealanswers.com along with a plethora of other information, advice and helpful hints for parents. You can find materials covering topics from discouraging children from smoking to building parent-child relationships and teaching children about healthier lifestyles. Parents who wish to watch or participate in the July 10, or any other upcoming RPRA Google+ Hangout event, can find a link and sign-up information on the Real Parents Real Answers website. The post-event recordings will be available on the program’s YouTube page.

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