How do I confront my mother about her smoking without pressuring her to quit?

1 answer | Last updated: Oct 04, 2016
Chsb asked...

We rent a home and the lease says no smoking. My mother of 83 lives with us, a family of four (myself, my husband and two teenage sons) and she sneaks cigarettes. She has no dementia, she said she would not put all of us in jeopardy of losing our home and yet when we were in bed last night she lit up a cigarette. We have smelled the smoke but have not seen her with a cigarette in her hand in the house so we have not talked to her about it; But last night one of my sons went downstairs and saw her with a cigarette. She can smoke outside. She also has electronic cigarettes, which the landlord is ok with inside the house. She has to smoke regular cigarettes outside. I do not like that she has put us in the position of having to tell her. I do not like that she has lied to us aobut it and I am frustrated because she puts us all in a bad situation. The landlord is a very gracious man and we have no desire to put him in a bad situation either. If my mother were demented it would be a different story. I understand she wants to smoke and do not push for her to stop. We have given her our concerns as she has been through several major surgeries and now has congestive heart failure and COPD. She should stop but I believe it is all that she enjoys. But the lease is an unmovable point. I know we have to confront her but I think I just want to hear about someone elses trials with this sort of thing. I really hatr to parent her when she does not need it. She will lose yet another form of her independence. We are committed to caring for her. We are a family together. We love her and want her to have a home apart from a nursing home for the rest of her life. I am so sad about this.

Expert Answers

Kay Paggi, GCM, LPC, CGC, MA, is in private practice as a geriatric care manager and is on the advisory board for the Emeritus Program at Richland College. She has worked with seniors for nearly 20 years as a licensed professional counselor, certified gerontological counselor, and certified geriatric care manager.

It is difficult to confront a parent about major issues. One of the normal transitions of middle life is adjusting your relationship with your parents into a peer to peer, rather than adult to child.

How would you handle this issue with a peer who was living with you? I suspect you might have a candid discussion with them. It is important for your peer to know that you care about them, and understand that they want to continue smoking, and you will not object. But it is also important that they understand that they understand your family's contractual obligation with the home owner, which means there can be no smoking in the house. Your discussion would probably end with an understanding that if the in-home smoking continues, your peer would need to find alternative housing.

Your relationship with your parent is no different. She is causes you to endanger your housing. She knows this, but does it anyway, for whatever reason. She must accept the consequences. She is using your love and respect for her as a bargaining chip; you would not allow a trusted friend or another peer to use you in this way.

Assure her of your love, and but set boundaries. If she wants to live with you, she must follow the house rules.