The older your kids get, the more likely they are to encounter marijuana and other recreational drugs. As a parent, it's natural to want to protect their childlike innocence as long as possible. However, if you never broach the subject of drug use at all — or if you only discuss it long enough to forbid it — then you'll miss a very valuable opportunity to prepare them.
Marijuana is a good place to start, because it's the most common and accessible drug. As more states legalize it and the media follows this cultural shift toward acceptance, it's especially important to put the drug in perspective for your kids. Make sure you cover all of the following factors during your discussions, so that your message stays on point.
Even if marijuana is legal where you live, it's not available to minors, so it's not legal for your kids to experiment with it any more than alcohol or tobacco are. Prepare them for the consequences of being caught and remind them that illegal drug transactions may expose them to even bigger risks. Don't assume, however, that this risk is enough to keep them away.
Adolescent rebellion and peer pressure may outweigh legal risks, but it's also important for them to understand that crimes aren't the only risky behaviors, and that moderation is still their responsibility. Remember that you're not just preparing them for teenage risks; you're preparing them for life. Eventually, they'll be allowed to drink and smoke cigarettes legally. Safety is another consideration that they need to keep in mind for themselves and the safety of their friends so having access to accurate information on marijuana use is critical. No information, wrong information, and inflammatory information are all potentially dangerous if they lead to poor decisions.
Marijuana is safer than most recreational drugs, including alcohol and tobacco. It does have some effects such as increased heart rate, slowed reactions, and slowed respirations, among others. There is some evidence to suggest that teens that use may have some cognitive loss which may or may not be permanent. Depending on how you use it, if you smoke it you may irritate your lungs so those with lung conditions should avoid smoking marijuana. Don't invent dangers that don't exist but do provide the best accurate information possible. Manufacturing negative issues will only jeopardize your kids' ability to trust you (and take away their ability to make informed decisions).
Instead, point them toward studies that explore marijuana's cognitive effects on developing brains and bodies. Explain that their decision-making skills won't be fully formed until they're in their mid-twenties, and marijuana may impede that process permanently. You may want to show them documentaries and articles about juvenile medicinal marijuana patients, so they realize marijuana use for minors is restricted to highly specialized medically appropriate circumstances.
When you decided to become a parent, peer pressure was one of the challenges you signed on for. No matter how accurate your information or how solid your bond with your kids, they'll spend unsupervised time with friends, classmates, teammates, and co-workers, and these peers might try to convince them to make poor decisions.
Whether or not those decisions involve marijuana use, your children always have the power to say no. Long before they have, make sure they understand that friendship is about an equal exchange of support, and good friends don't make each other uncomfortable. Ask them to tell you if anyone bullies them about drug use, or any other issue, and provide unconditional support. An open door of communication can prevent a lot of heartache on both sides.
If you'd like to know more about how to help your child or a loved one with a substance use habit, please call one of our Family Consultants today. They can discuss your situation and provide you with information on a program for your loved one to end their substance use habit permanently. With our Cognitive Behavioral Learning (CBL) program, your loved one learns how to walk away from substances and into a life of their own goals and dreams to accomplish.