The Dos and Don’ts of talking to your kids about pot

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Breakthroughs in science and shifting viewpoints in the last decade have given cannabis room to grow as a safe, and practical plant that people can use in everyday life.

One thing that science is still showing however, is that like other psychoactive substances such as caffeine or alcohol, marijuana can have long-term impacts on memory, problem-solving skills, and critical thinking in the developing brain of an adolescent.

With Canada legalizing marijuana across the country this summer, there is some concern from parents who are worried about how to discuss cannabis with their children. The worry is that if the government says marijuana is okay, then my kids will think it’s safe for them to use. Recent studies however have shown that parents may not need to worry.

As marijuana gains more traction as a safe substance for medicinal and recreational purposes, studies south of the border are showing that fewer teens are smoking pot in states where cannabis has been legalized. Experts are saying this is due to less marijuana being sold illegally and also because adults are having more realistic conversations with kids on the substance.

Even for those who fully agree with legalization, it can be a difficult topic to discuss with kids, so we’ve created a list of some DOs and DON’Ts on speaking to kids about marijuana as the country begins to legalize:

DO

Start early: Kids are being exposed to marijuana at an early age. Though you might think your child is too young, there is no harm in having age-appropriate conversations about marijuana as early as elementary school.

Educate: This is a great opportunity to explain to your child about the benefits of cannabis but also why it’s not healthy for teens and younger. There are many sources available specifically designed to help parents with this exact subject such as the Cannabis Talk Kit on the Drug Free Kids Canada page.

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Be Honest: This can be a good opportunity to get things out in the open about your own use. You can explain to them why you use it for yourself but still explain why you have concerns about your child using it in their adolescent years.

Listen: Before you even begin a conversation about marijuana, it can be a good idea to ask your child what they already know. Let them explain to you what they know without interruption. You should also keep the conversation open for the long term. If they know they will be listened to when they have questions or concerns, they’ll likely come to you again.

DON’T

Generalize: Until recently, marijuana has been associated as being similar to other, harder substances. Science and statistics show over and over that this is not the case at all and that people who use marijuana rarely graduate to using any other drug. While you may have concerns about your child smoking marijuana, don’t make false comparisons. Explain what might be the realistic consequences of marijuana use at their age.

Use scare tactics: Many drug education programs from as early as the 80s have tried to scare students by giving completely false information about how “dangerous” pot can be. Programs such as D.A.R.E. have been heavily scrutinized for not working. The fact is, kids are smarter than that, and they can do their own research. If they think they’re being lied to, they won’t take any of the real consequences seriously.

Judge: It’s important to keep an open mind, especially if your child is coming to you for information or advice. If they have friends who are using pot, the last thing you should do is tell them that they’re bad kids and that they shouldn’t spend time with them anymore. Friends are very important in adolescence and if they feel you are attacking their friends, they will also feel attacked and not come to you anymore.

It’s an exciting time for advocates of marijuana and for those who understand the benefits of the plant. While it might be an awkward topic to bring up to your kids, legalization is actually creating a great opportunity for parents to discuss marijuana in an honest and open forum.

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