Last year, Colorado Parent Magazine wanted to run a special section all about parenting and marijuana. Unfortunately, they couldn’t get enough advertisers to support it, so the idea was dropped.
I was asked to write a piece for that special section about talking with your kids about marijuana. It was never published… until now.
Don’t be afraid of the conversation
As a medical marijuana advocate, I regularly hear from parents who are concerned about their kids now that marijuana is legal, not only for medical use but for adult use in Colorado. It’s so much harder now than it was when Nancy Reagan told us all to “just say no.”
Recently a mom asked me if I would be concerned if my grandson started smoking pot every day. Of course I would be, but not because it was pot. I’d be concerned if he started doing anything new every day. If he started working out every day, I’d wonder if he was trying to impress a girl, was being picked on by a bully, or was struggling with some body image issues. Sure, he might just want to get fit, but it’s worth checking into.
I’d feel pretty much the same if he started needing coffee every morning or energy drinks to get through the day. I’d be concerned if he was eating a lot of sugar, playing too many video games, or keeping to himself too much. It’s all about balance and knowing your kid.
Society today seems to celebrate the extreme. Extreme sports. Extreme behavior. Watch one of the Jackass movies or just surf YouTube for a while and you’ll be amazed at the wild and crazy things people do. What message does that send to our children about balance and responsibility in life?
I’ve always considered myself a fairly pragmatic parent. I figured that sooner or later someone would offer my son a drink, or a smoke, or a joint, or sex. I realized I needed to get ahead of these issues, and the best way to do that was through little conversations.
How do you start these conversations?
Look for age-appropriate opportunities for a casual chat. Talk about the story you heard on the news and ask what your child thinks. If you pass by a marijuana store, talk about the new business in the neighborhood. Ask your child if she has any idea what goes on in there. You will likely be surprise by her response. Whatever she says, be open to hearing her perspective.
I’ll never forget when my grandson told me in no uncertain terms that “marijuana is a very bad drug.” This was the perfect opportunity to talk about my experience with the medical benefits of marijuana and how much it helps my fibromyalgia. I made sure to explain to him that while marijuana can really help sick people, and some people enjoy it like they would a beer or glass of wine, it’s one of those things that’s better left until he’s an adult.
That opened up a fascinating conversation about why some things are okay for adults, but not okay for kids. We talked about alcohol, coffee, driving, and other things that are best left until he gets older and is ready for the responsibility. We ended the discussion much the way his father and I had, with a hug and reassurance that if he ever had any questions or just wanted to talk again, I’m here.
What about that dreaded question: “Mommy, did you smoke marijuana when you were a kid?”
A lot of parents are afraid to start the conversation about marijuana because they’re afraid they’ll be asked about their own drug history. My advice? Just fess up and get on with it.
It’s okay to tell your kids you were young and stupid once. Really, it is. You’re human. It’s okay to tell them that you (or someone you know) may have made some poor choices, but you learned from your mistakes and now want to share your experience so your child can learn too. If you or a family member struggled with addiction or other drug-related health issues, it’s okay to talk about it. If you’re not talking with your child about these issues, who is?
Most important: stick with the facts and don’t get into scare tactics and fear-mongering. Don’t lie or make things up. If you do, sooner or later your kid will figure it out. They have Google, after all. If they think you’ve lied to them about marijuana, they won’t believe you when you tell them about truly dangerous substances and behaviors.
If you don’t have all the answers, and none of us does, just say so, and offer to research it together. You’ll find many opportunities for those little conversations as you explore the facts and data on this brave new world of legal marijuana together.
Although they may be difficult to start, these little conversations are incredibly valuable. Well beyond conveying facts and data, they serve to solidify the trust and bond between parent and child.
Be brave. Get informed. It’s time to be the voice of reason for your child, not the voice of Reefer Madness.
Colorado Parent has decided to run a series of articles this year, one each month, on parenting in a marijuana-legal state. Page 28 of the March issue has the second installment, an article (not mine) titled “Pot Talk” about talking with your kids. What do you think? Good advice or more of the same?
How do you talk with your kids about marijuana? What advice would you have for parents in this brave new world of legal marijuana?
— Rx MaryJane (Teri Robnett)
Cannabis Patients Alliance is working hard for patients by continuing to advocate for legal, safe, affordable access to medical marijuana across Colorado and around the country. Your contribution will go a long way toward keeping our advocacy alive and ensuring patients needs are included in the discourse on public policy and education. We are changing hearts and minds, one conversation at a time. Please DONATE today so our work can continue!