Tips to Help Parents Quit Smoking (and Stay Quit)

September 10th, 2013 by Dionna | 14 Comments
Posted in Carnival and Special Series, Carnival of Natural Parenting, Healthy Living, natural parenting

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Welcome to the September 2013 Carnival of Natural Parenting: Staying Safe

This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama. This month our participants have shared stories and tips about protecting our families. Please read to the end to find a list of links to the other carnival participants.


Tips to Help Parents Quit Smoking 2

It might surprise you to know that I used to be smoker, and a dedicated one at that. I don’t know how many times I tried to quit over the years. The magical moment? Seeing two lines appear on a pregnancy test. I never smoked another cigarette after I found out I was pregnant with my oldest.

My story may not be the reality for many smokers. I understand how much willpower it takes to put down cigarettes for good. There are still days I smell smoke and think about how nice it would feel to have a cigarette. Or days that parenting makes me want to pull out my hair and run to the store for a pack. After more than six years, I still dream about smoking quite regularly (and then wake up feeling guilty).

I hate cigarettes. I hate the hold they had over me. I hate the thousands and thousands of dollars I wasted on them. I hate how much sickness they caused me. I hate thinking about how much I smelled. I hate the fact that I smoked around other people’s children. I was a careless, thoughtless smoker. I apologize for all of the harm I caused with my addiction.

This post is for parents, caregivers of children, aunts and uncles, teachers – anyone who loves a child. Below are tips and resources to help you prepare to quit smoking, and to stay quit. There are links and bits of wisdom from other parents who used to smoke.1 There are many ways to quit smoking, hopefully you will find something that inspires you.

And if you need a friend to help you stay motivated, please reach out to me. I will try to connect you with another reader who can help support you (and perhaps you can support her).

Tips to Help Parents Quit Smoking (and Stay Quit)

    Before You Quit

  1. Make a list of reasons to quit smoking, and find your real motivation. Carry your list with you and add to it whenever you think of new reasons to be smoke-free.

    As I mentioned above, my main motivation to quit smoking was knowing that I would be a mother. A lot of people will tell you that you cannot quit for someone else, it must be for yourself. But I’d been trying to quit for myself for years, and it never stuck. Once I knew that someone else would be learning from me, once someone else’s health depended on my habits, I found my true motivation to quit smoking.

    Part of that motivation came from the fact that I was the child of two smokers. I remember crying and begging my parents to quit smoking when I was young. I was afraid they would die. When my own mother finally quit smoking, her main motivation was her children. We are both living proof that if you can’t quit for yourself, you can find lasting motivation to quit – for your children.

  2. Get into the mindset before you even start to quit. Destany of They Are All of Me recommends reading articles prior to your quit date; she liked many of the articles at’s Quit Smoking site.
  3. Find tools that speak to you. There are so many available! Nermeen found helpful (especially the free ebook that talks about what you can anticipate during the quitting process, as well as a “craving chart” that gives you an idea of what to expect in the first weeks). Usha really liked Allen Carr’s Easyway to Stop Smoking.

    Many, many smokers rely on quit smoking aids to help deal with those initial strong cravings and psychological withdrawal symptoms. Look into the pros and cons of patches, electronic cigarettes (like this E-cigarette Starter Kit), prescription medications, gums and more.

    You can even find apps to help you quit. Kara says, “My husband used an app called QuitNow. It helped him track health goals, money saved, and gave him encouragement. It’s free for android phones.”

  4. Make a plan to help deal with cravings. Physically, smoking involves your hands and your mouth, so find some tools to keep both occupied. Toothpicks, straws, gum, apples/carrots/crunchy fruits and veggies, and hard candy/mints are all ways to help replace having a cigarette in your mouth. It also helps to drink lots of water. To occupy your hands, try knitting, doodling, get a smoosh ball to squeeze, find plastic shipping bubbles to pop, snap a rubberband, tie friendship bracelets, or engage in a new hand-focused hobby.

    Psychologically (and physically internally, as your body goes through nicotine withdrawal), cravings can be very intense. Know, though, that cravings usually pass in less than 10 minutes. Have a plan for those 10 minutes. Create a list in advance of ways you can delay and avoid nicotine cravings, especially in the first month. Remember, your list only needs to be of activities and distractions that last 10 minutes.

    Kellie of Our Mindful Life shares: “When I quit, one of my 10 minute time waster strategies was to peel and eat an orange, section by section. This took just about ten minutes, utilized my hands and my mouth, and the extra vitamin C helps to repair the frazzled nerves that are pleading for nicotine!”

  5. Set up a support system. Find a couple of friends (and your partner, if s/he is available and supportive) who will listen to you moan and groan about how hard it is, remind you of all of the benefits of quitting, give you special pick-me-ups along your journey, and help hold you accountable.

    In addition to friends you can see in person or call on the phone, look into an online support system. There are forums and websites dedicated to connecting soon-to-be ex-smokers with people who can encourage and support them.

    Here is an article your support network can read on how to best support you.

  6. Find a quit buddy. If you know someone who smokes and who would also like to quit, do it together. I’m happy to help you connect with another parent through my Facebook page if you need a partner!
  7. While You Are Quitting

  8. Avoid triggers. Part of the plan you devise should be to replace your normal smoking triggers and times with alternatives. Did you smoke with your morning coffee? Switch to a strong cup of tea. Or drink your coffee somewhere else where smoking is not allowed. Or treat yourself to coffee at a local cafe. Did you smoke on the drive to work? Try carpooling. Or find something handy to replace the cigarette in your fingers while you drive.

    If it helps, let the alternatives have a focus on your children and family. Knit your son a hat. Help coach your daughter’s team. Plan the family vacation you can take next year with the money you’ve saved ( has a ticker that keeps track of how much money you’ve saved!). Create a family bucket list of activities you would have never been able to do as a smoker. And make good use of that list of 10 minute activities.

  9. Exercise. Exercise can be an effective craving buster, as you replace the good feelings associated with nicotine with the endorphins created when you exercise. Moreover, exercise is just a great way in general to lift your spirits. It can help you avoid nicotine withdrawal-related depression, and it can hasten the return to health you’ll soon be feeling once you’ve quit smoking.
  10. Involve your child in the process. If your child is old enough to know that you smoke and are trying to quit, then let them be part of your support system. I read an interesting statistic in researching this post. “A recent study in Great Britain revealed that of those children who have parents that smoke, more than 50 percent say their one wish for Christmas is for their parents to stop smoking. In addition, more than 73 percent of those children frequently worry about their parent(s) dying.”2 If your child is worried about you smoking, if your child is one of your motivations to quit, let them help! Celebrate achievements with your child – go out for a special treat together, make a sticker chart for mama, make it a positive experience for both of you.
  11. Never give up. Ronda’s wise words: “I never gave up trying to quit.”
  12. Seek peace. In between those times when you are avoiding cravings and working through the psychological stress of quitting, find some time to work on inner peace. Whether you meditate (I’m particularly fond of the loving-kindness meditation), pray, try acupuncture (it worked like a charm for Angela) or self-hypnosis/negative associations (Destany trained herself to think “ew!” every time she thought about a cigarette), or look into one of these 20 Natural Ways to De-Stress When Anxiety Attacks.
  13. Put your child’s picture in your pack of cigarettes. Have you seen the cigarette packages with horrific pictures of cancerous lungs or dying cancer victims? Google them, if you haven’t. I think most smokers have learned to ignore the health risks (otherwise, we wouldn’t continue smoking). Instead of scare tactics, try something motivational – keep a picture of your child together with the cigarettes to help you remember that you are quitting for more than just yourself.

    Similarly, Cyndee calculated the time she spent away from her kids while smoking. She said it added up to weeks every year.

  14. Make smoking inconvenient. Designate a smoking area that is not easy to get to. Designate a time to smoke that is hard to manage. Change your clothes each time you smoke. Brush and floss after every cigarette. Pair it with something tremendously unpleasant, like picking up the neighborhood dog waste. Basically, make it no fun.
  15. Spend more time with your kids. Help make quitting more positive by replacing nicotine with quality time with your children. Play. Giggle. Connect. Run. Chase. Do you feel that? That’s clean air in your lungs! You can run and breathe again! (One important step to begin with: if you don’t already limit smoking to adults-only areas, now is a great time to start.)
  16. After You Quit Smoking

  17. One backslide does not mean you will be a smoker for life, it just means you try again. Kirstin’s sage advice: “Don’t make a back slide permanent because you won’t stop beating yourself up over it. If you slip up, figure out why. Was it a particularly stressful day? Did you set yourself up to fail by putting yourself in a bad situation? Figure out how to cope next time and move on. Have a plan for those moments that are most tempting ahead of time, and have someone you can call on when you feel especially weak.”
  18. Learn new coping mechanisms. Smoking is a coping mechanism, so we ex-smokers need to learn new ways to cope. Almost all parents I’ve talked to who had quit smoking and come back to it again later, smoked that first “just this one” cigarette during a period of stress. Here are some examples of healthy coping mechanisms (specifically written for recovering addicts).

Are you an ex-smoker? How did you quit? What wisdom can you share with other parents reading today?


Photo altered with permission from Chris@APL/m/in/photostream/ via Flickr Creative Commons


Carnival of Natural Parenting -- Hobo Mama and Code Name: MamaVisit Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama to find out how you can participate in the next Carnival of Natural Parenting!

Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:

(This list will be updated by afternoon September 10 with all the carnival links.)

  • Stranger Danger — Jennifer at Hybrid Rasta Mama shares her approach to the topic of “strangers” and why she prefers to avoid that word, instead opting to help her 4-year-old understand what sorts of contact with adults is appropriate and whom to seek help from should she ever need it.
  • We are the FDA — Justine at The Lone Home Ranger makes the case that when it comes to food and drugs, parents are necessarily both their kids’ best proponent of healthy eating and defense against unsafe products.
  • You Can’t Baby Proof Mother Nature — Nicole Lauren at Mama Mermaid shares how she tackles the challenges of safety when teaching her toddler about the outdoors.
  • Bike Safety With Kids — Christy at Eco Journey In the Burbs shares her tips for safe cycling with children in a guest post at Natural Parents Network.
  • Spidey Sense — Maud at Awfully Chipper used a playground visit gone awry to teach her children about trusting their instincts.
  • Watersustainablemum explains how she has used her love of canoeing to enable her children to be confident around water
  • Safety without baby proofing — Hannabert at Hannahandhorn talks about teaching safety rather than babyproofing.
  • Coming of Age: The Safety Net of Secure AttatchmentGentle Mama Moon reflects on her own experiences of entering young adulthood and in particular the risks that many young women/girls take as turbulent hormones coincide with insecurities and for some, loneliness — a deep longing for connection.
  • Mistakes You Might Be Makings With Car Seats — Car seats are complex, and Brittany at The Pistachio Project shares ways we might be using them improperly.
  • Could your child strangle on your window blinds? — One U.S. child a month strangles to death on a window blind cord — and it’s not always the obvious cords that are the danger. Lauren at Hobo Mama sends a strong message to get rid of corded blinds, and take steps to keep your children safe.
  • Tips to Help Parents Quit Smoking (and Stay Quit) — Creating a safe, smoke-free home not only gives children a healthier childhood, it also helps them make healthier choices later in life, too. Dionna at Code Name: Mama (an ex-smoker herself) offers tips to parents struggling to quit smoking, and she’ll be happy to be a source of support for anyone who needs it.
  • Gradually Expanding Range — Becca at The Earthling’s Handbook explains how she is increasing the area in which her child can walk alone, a little bit at a time.
  • Safety Sense and Self Confidence — Do you hover? Are you overprotective? Erica at ChildOrganics discusses trusting your child’s safety sense and how this helps your child develop self-confidence.
  • Staying Safe With Food Allergies and Intolerances — Kellie at Our Mindful Life is sharing how she taught her son about staying safe when it came to his food allergies.
  • Don’t Touch That Baby!Crunchy Con Mom offers her 3 best tips for preventing unwanted touching of your baby.
  • Playground Wrangling: Handling Two Toddlers Heading in Opposite Directions — Megan at the Boho Mama shares her experience with keeping two busy toddlers safe on the playground (AKA, the Zone of Death) while also keeping her sanity.
  • Letting Go of “No” and Taking Chances — Mommy at Playing for Peace tries to accept the bumps, bruises and tears that come from letting her active and curious one-year-old explore the world and take chances.
  • Preventing Choking in Babies and Toddlers with Older Siblings — Deb Chitwood at Living Montessori Now gives tips on preventing choking in babies and toddlers along with Montessori-inspired tips for preventing choking in babies and toddlers who have older siblings working with small objects.
  • Keeping Our Children Safe: A Community and National Priority — September has many days and weeks dedicated to issues of safety; however, none stir the emotions as does Patriot Day which honors those slain the terrorist attacks. Along with honoring the victims, safety officals want parents to be ready in the event of another disaster whether caused by terrorists or nature. Here are their top tips from Mary at Mary-andering Creatively.
  • A Complete Family: Merging Pets and Offspring — Ana at Panda & Ananaso shares the ground rules that she laid out for herself, her big brown dog, and later her baby to ensure a happy, safe, and complete family.
  • Be Brave — Shannon at Pineapples & Artichokes talks about helping her kids learn to be brave so that they can stay safe, even when she’s not around.
  • Catchy PhrasingMomma Jorje just shares one quick tip for helping kids learn about safety. She assures there are examples provided.
  • Know Your Kid — Alisha at Cinnamon&Sassfras refutes the idea that children are unpredictable.
  • Surprising car seat myths — Choosing a car seat is a big, important decision with lots of variables. But there are some ways to simplify it and make sure you have made the safest choice for your family. Megan at Mama Seeds shares how, plus some surprising myths that changed her approach to car seats completely!
  • I Never Tell My Kids To Be Careful — Kim is Raising Babes, Naturally, by staying present and avoiding the phrase “be careful!”

  1. You can see links to the full Facebook threads about smoking here, here, here and here. There is much more than what I’ve written here – check them out!
  2. URMC Smoking Cessation Expert Offers Tips for Smokers Trying to Quit

14 Responses to:
"Tips to Help Parents Quit Smoking (and Stay Quit)"

  1. I quit smoking 4/19/2002 – and I was an avid smoker as well. When I quit, one of my 10 minute time waster strategies was to peel and eat an orange, section by section. This took just about ten minutes, utilized my hands and my mouth, and the extra vitamin C helps to repair the frazzled nerves that are pleading for nicotine!

    This is such a great article! Thank you so much for the work you put into it.

  2. Crunchy Con Mom   crunchyconmom

    My neighbors on both sides smoke and I’m allergic so I end up coming inside and shutting all my windows every time they smoke (I can always smell it, even if I can’t even see or hear them because I am so sensitive to the smell) even thought they try to not do it in the front if we are in the front or the back if we are out back. It doesn’t work at all, although I appreciate them trying to being considerate.
    I wish I could print this compassionate and practical post off and sneakily slip it under their doors. Lol.

    • Dionna   CodeNameMama

      We aren’t allergic (that I know of), but every time I see someone smoking at a park, I want to tell them we are and politely ask them to go elsewhere. (sigh)

  3. I was never a smoker. I tried a puff a couple of times, but watching my grandfather die of emphysema when I was 9-14 years old was a powerful motivator to avoid the habit!

    My partner did smoke for a few years in college. His first strategy for quitting was to break his (unfiltered) cigarettes in half and allow himself only half at a time. After cutting back that way, he bought the cheapest, nastiest tasting cigarettes he could find, and that made smoking so unpleasant that he easily quit.

    • Dionna   CodeNameMama

      I tried that half thing, it didn’t work for me, but I have talked to many people who it did work for. Everyone is so different!

  4. Erica @ ChildOrganics   ChildOrganics

    My dad was a truck driver growing up. He apparently smoked when he was on the road, but never around us children. I remember finding cigarettes in his bag and being devastated. My brother and I would break them and stick them back in his bag. We knew he’d never say anything because he then would have to admit to us that he smoked. We laugh as we look back at that, but what makes me sad now is that my brother smokes. :-( I will share this with him. Thanks!

    • Dionna   CodeNameMama

      Fingers crossed for your brother. I also read a statistic that said that more older smokers quit successfully than younger ones, so it’s never too late to quit :)

  5. Kim @ RaisingBabesNaturally   BabeRaising

    Great post – it’s a subject you don’t hear talked about too often for some reason, although it’s still such a huge part of many people’s lives! Good for you for your journey away from it!

    Kim @

  6. Lauren @ Hobo Mama   Hobo_Mama

    These are great tips — thanks, Dionna! I think they can be helpful for and translate over to other addictive habits, too. For instance, I know that quitting fast food was possible for me only when I realized it was what my toddler child recognized as representing “food” — that brought home to me that I wanted different for my children and was able to stop a habit that I’d never bothered to stop for my own good.

  7. Lauren @ Hobo Mama   Hobo_Mama

    By the way, you know what’s weird? I’ve never smoked, and yet I’m always having dreams that I smoke on the sly. Maybe there’s something universal about it, like dreaming you show up to work naked, or go to school and haven’t studied for the big test? :)

  8. Christy   ChristyRollo

    Fantastic tips, all the more meaningful because they come from someone who has lived it. Thanks for the tips! I will be pinning this post to save for someone who struggles with smoking. Luckily my husband made the decision to quit smoking when we knew we wanted to start trying to have children, but it was a real struggle for him and it took 3 or 4 tries before it stuck. There are certain trigger situations for him, such as social drinking or staying up late, where it can still be hard.

  9. Don Windle   ebookchronicles

    I started smoking in the 50’s when I was about 10. I kept smoking through 24 years in the Navy and into civilian life. I was smoking three packs a day. Putting a pack of cigarettes in each sock and one in my shirt pocket was part of getting dressed in the morning. Then I met a woman who was a non-smoker and she asked me to stop. I tried over and over… and failed. Then a guy told me the urge for a cigarette only lasts about five minutes. I thought to myself, “I can stand anything for five minutes!” I tried stopping again and this time it worked! I just looked at my watch when I wanted to smoke and 5-4-3-2-1 DONE! I stopped almost 20 years ago. I still feel the urge, but it doesn’t hold power over me anymore. I stopped smoking… You can too! And that woman is my wife and mother of our two daughters! Life is good!

  10. Tommy   pro_pv

    Great article, Dionna. I personally read Allen Carr’s Easyway to Stop Smoking and vouch 100% for that book.

    At the end of the day though, it’s up to the person and if they want to “escape” smoking. If I had kids, it would definitely be enough reason for me to stop because I’d want to see them get old with me :)

    I actually switched to an electronic cigarette and have been smoke free for over 2 years.

    Very liberating!

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