Written By Evan Kaden
Every parent has their own way of talking to their kids about cannabis, but for some, the task may be easier said than done. It’s not an easy thing to sit your children down and talk to them about drugs. Even if cannabis is legal in your neck of the woods, it’s still important to have these often difficult discussions so that you can rest easy knowing you did your part to educate and inform your children about the risks and benefits of using such substances.
Not everyone thinks drugs are bad, and the truth is that they can be a lot of fun; otherwise, people wouldn’t use them, right? So there’s no need to sugarcoat the truth or hide your children from the facts when you decide it’s time to talk about cannabis and other drugs.
To help you get started, we’ve put together a guide that makes the process easier and less awkward for everyone involved.
There is a growing body of evidence that suggests the “drug talk” shouldn’t be a one and done situation. The more open and honest families are about drugs and alcohol, the less likely children are to use and abuse these substances.
You’ll soon find out that when you approach discussions about cannabis use, you’ll be better served to go in with questions, rather than lectures. Give yourself – and your children – time to process what is being discussed and don’t make any assumptions about what you think you know about your children. If your teenager tells you that they have tried cannabis or other drugs, don’t get angry.
You’ve obviously created a safe space for your child to tell the truth, so don’t punish them for being honest. That is what you want, isn’t it? Questions that are asked out of curiosity, instead of demand, provide the best way to continue the conversation and keep everyone moving forward.
You can start this conversation with young children – there’s no need to wait until your kids are grown to start learning about their views on drugs and how they interpret the world around them. Remember, these conversations are not meant to be listen-and-obey; these conversations need to be inclusive and ongoing.
Return to the Conversation Many Times
As a parent, you’ve come to know that your child changes a lot in a short period of time. Discussing cannabis when your child is 12 or 13 doesn’t mean that the information stays with them or that they still believe or trust your opinion. A 15 or 16-year old teenager certainly has their own views on drugs and how they want to spend their time. That means that you need to bring the conversation back to the table many times, and don’t take for granted that one good conversation solved any and all potential or existing problems.
Your child is going to ask you, sooner or later, if you have used cannabis or other drug products and you’ll need to decide if you are going to be honest with them. It helps a lot when parents confess to their use because it makes the situation more real for teenagers who think their parents are just ragging on them to avoid drugs.
An interesting thing happens to families when the drug talk is on the table: everyone becomes hyper aware of what is and is not acceptable in a family unit. There are many things parents can do to help prevent kids from using cannabis, but rather than try to restrict children from living life and experiencing things for themselves, a better approach is to determine where the limits are and what is important to your family together.
There is a general consensus amongst the public that cannabis can lead to other drug use, but all of the information surrounding those studies has been presented while cannabis was largely illegal. We don’t yet have statistics about what happens to youth throughout the lifetime of a legalization process.
Unfortunately, as parents, it’s impossible to wait around to find out what happens when cannabis is widely accepted in a community instead of demoralized. Parents, then, must determine how they want to handle both legal and illegal cannabis use in their home.
The best way to approach this is to work with your teenagers to determine where those boundaries will begin and end, so that young adults don’t feel like they are being controlled. When you include your children, even young children, in your decision-making process, they have a greater sense of ownership and pride of execution on the rules.
When the Rules are Broken
Nobody can tell you what to do when your child breaks the rules of the household. That is an area of parenting that is near and dear to everyone’s own heart and it’s difficult to give any kind of parenting advice that has to do with discipline and punishment because rules are different in everyone’s home. What one parent may find highly offensive; another may just let roll off their back.
Before you can finalize the boundaries and rules in your home related to cannabis and other drug use amongst your teenagers, you need to decide for yourself what you think is right and wrong, good and bad, and acceptable and not acceptable.
You must also ask yourself what you would like to see happen if your children make mistakes or break the rules. It doesn’t mean you will have the final word on what the rule-breaking means, but it is important that the basis for any consequences are rooted in your beliefs.
Parents, after all, don’t raise their children to believe things differently from themselves, so if you haven’t given this much thought, now is a good time to do that.
Monitoring Behaviors and Activities
Having discussions about cannabis use, or other important discussions about expectations and lessons for that matter means following up on those discussions. It’s important to know what your teenagers and children are doing, who they are with, what kind of activities they are involved in, and what their beliefs and values are so that you can keep your ear to the ground on what road they might be headed in life.
Try to remember though, that the decisions teenagers make rarely haunt them for the rest of their lives and that everyone needs to make their own mistakes. Parents often parent from a place of regret and remorse and try to avoid letting children make the same mistakes they did. The jury is out on the best way to parent and everyone is entitled to their opinions, so understanding what you want and need from your parent-child relationship is an important part of monitoring and supporting children.
There’s a fine line between letting them loose in the world and keeping them under lock and key. It’s hard for parents to navigate that aspect of parenting sometimes, and certainly, talking about drugs is one of those things. It seems to be an all-or-nothing approach that many people take, simply forbidding their children from using cannabis or drugs of any kind. That approach is hard to police and unrealistic. Kids are going to do what kids are going to do. So how do you monitor their behaviors?
Start by asking them to be honest with you about their activities and build trust with them by being honest about yours. When you ask questions about their friends and what they are doing, don’t accuse anyone or make judgements. That pushes kids away. When your children know they can talk to you about problems other kids are having, they’ll feel comfortable talking to you about their own.
Interestingly enough, the relationships parents have with their children’s friends also matter in the long-term to help prevent children from getting mixed up with the wrong kinds of people.
Wrapping it Up
All of this is to say that a simple discussion about drug use is anything but simple. There is a lot that goes into the before, during, and after a conversation related to what your teenagers might do with cannabis. Starting slow, continuing the conversation, being mindful of boundaries and creating rules together can all help you and your teenager navigate these often uncomfortable and trying years.
Every family is different and some parents are going to be more strict than others about the use of cannabis in their home or by their children, while others will encourage exploration and experiences so children can make their own choices and decisions in life.
Whatever approach you choose, or some version in between, make sure your children are included in the process all along the way. You remember what it was like to resist the wishes of your parents. Include them whenever possible and provide them an opportunity to be responsible for how they turn out as adults.
Regardless of what your children decide to do with their time and in their activities, creating an open and honest space for conversations like these to happen is the best thing you can do as a parent. The conversations don’t have to be perfect, and in fact, probably won’t be, but they’ll mean a lot and with the right consistency and follow-through, which will make a lasting impact on your family for the better.
Guest Post By Evan Kaden
BIO: Easily entertained by the simpler things in life, Evan spends most of his free time enjoying the outdoors with his Golden Retriever, Skeeter. As a freelance writer and marijuana activist, he’s thankful for the many opportunities he’s been given to express his passion for the cannabis industry.
Find him on Twitter: https://twitter.com/itsEvanKaden