Should I be concerned that my kid pretends he's smoking or drinking wine?
Pretending to smoke and drink is not necessarily cause for concern. It's natural and age-appropriate for little kids to imitate grown-ups. They're learning what's socially acceptable -- and what you'll tolerate -- by testing boundaries. And, most likely, they're just looking for attention.
If you're wondering where they learned about these substances, it's very likely from you, close friends and family, or the media. Studies show that parent behavior has a huge influence on preschoolers' attitudes about smoking and drinking. Though that can be a little guilt-inducing, it's also good information to guide your response.
- When your kids imitate smoking and drinking, avoid emotional responses. Anger may feed attention-seeking, and laughing sends a mixed message. Instead, neutralize the behavior by asking where they learned about these things.
- Explain that wine, beer, and certain other drinks and cigarettes are only for adults.
- Stress the value of a healthy diet, and praise your kids for making healthy choices.
- Explain that advertisements for these products are intended for grown-ups, and note the cautions -- for example, "Enjoy responsibly" and "Smoking causes cancer."
- Limit exposure to movies and TV shows with drinking and smoking, but if your kids see it, make sure they also see the consequences: feeling sick, coughing, being impaired, getting in accidents.
Get more tips on talking to kids about smoking in the media.