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How To Talk To Your Teen About Marijuana (And Actually Get Somewhere!)

Whether you know it as marijuana, THC, cannabis, weed, or pot, one fact is clear: No amount of marijuana use is safe for youth. With more marijuana being sold and used in our community, it’s more important than ever we know the risks of youth use and protect them from early experimentation. Because teens’ brains are still developing, they are much more sensitive to the negative effects of marijuana use such as difficulties in learning, memory, and attention, increased anxiety and depression, and even addiction.

Teens who learn about marijuana and other drugs from their parents or caregivers, and know their no-use expectations, are HALF as likely to ever use these drugs compared to their peers. Parent Up is here to encourage and equip parents and caring adults to use their influence to prevent youth marijuana use, and these tips should help!

Setting the Stage for Conversations with Your Child

  • Try to put yourself in their shoes. Try to talk to teens the way you would want to be spoken to about a difficult subject. Practice refraining from judgement or anger, and instead be curious, calm, and listen with respect and empathy. Be curious and open-minded about their experiences. It’s more important – and effective– to listen and discuss rather than to lecture. Ask them questions about what they think about marijuana. Ask them what they know or what they’ve heard about cannabis at school or from friends. Finding out what our teens know and think about marijuana first helps us know where to start our conversations about the drug.


  • Keep an open mind, but a firm stance. We should make it clear to our teens that we care about them so we don’t approve of them using marijuana. We can tell our kids we don’t want them to risk their safety, brain development, or future, and we expect them to remain marijuana-free. Let’s express concern and set clear boundaries so they know where we stand. We are building a foundation for a relationship with our teens that is honest, trusting, and open, which is an important protective factor to safeguard them against cannabis and other drug use now and in the future.


  • Talk often! Talk often, talk often, talk often! These conversations are more likely to be successful when they take place more casually. For example, while we’re driving in the car, taking a walk, or washing dishes after dinner with our teens. Sometimes there’s even something in our environment that can spur a conversation, like when we drive past a smoke shop or we’re watching a movie with our teen that shows drug use. Taking advantage of these smaller moments and potential in-roads will help the conversation seem less threatening and more natural.

What to Say when Talking to Your Teen about Marijuana:

  • “There’s a lot of information about marijuana out there, but I want you to come to me with your questions.”
  • “If you’re concerned about your friends using marijuana, let me know and we can talk about it.” (In Missouri, more than 30.2% of youth had one or more friends who smoked marijuana (2022 Missouri Student Survey.)
  • “I’ve heard a lot of talk about marijuana recently, so I want you to know that it is never okay for kids to use. In fact, it’s illegal.”
  • “Your brain is still growing until your mid-20s and marijuana isn’t good for growing brains.”
What Your Teen Might Say: How You Can Respond:
"Ugh, again?! We've already talked about this!" “Yeah, I know we have, but it’s important to me that you know where I’m coming from and why I expect you to be drug-free. I care about you and love you. I want what’s best for your growing brain and body, so I’m going to check in with you sometimes or remind you of our rules because they keep you safe. I know you’re facing a lot of choices as you grow up and I want you to know where I stand.”
"Weed is safer than alcohol." “I’m not surprised to hear you say that because many people think that. But the fact is, there is no amount of safe drug use as a teen. Your brain and body are growing so much right now, and using any drugs during this time can have long term impacts on your brain and your health. Using marijuana as a teenager can also put you at greater risk of car accidents and making poor choices about sex or other drug use.”
“Marijuana is legal here now. Why would it be legal if it’s harmful?” “Many things are legal that can harm people, and especially kids and teens, like tobacco or alcohol. In fact, any drugs - including marijuana - can be more harmful to you than adults because you’re at a stage in life where your brain and body are growing so fast that it leaves you more vulnerable to addiction and the other harmful consequences of drug use.”
“I hear kids at school saying it’s from nature, so it can’t be harmful.” “I get that, but when you really think about it, that doesn’t make much sense. There are many natural plants that are harmful to humans like poison ivy, tobacco, and heroin, which is made from poppy flowers. Just because someone says it’s ‘natural’ doesn’t mean it isn’t harmful.”
“Did you smoke weed when you were younger?” {Answer with the truth, but bring it back to the present.} “Marijuana was a much less potent substance when I was a kid and I am really not happy with the decisions that I/my peers made when I/they did smoke. When you’re high or stoned, the ability to make good decisions is questionable and because today's marijuana is so strong, the risk is just too high.”
“My friend only smokes weed on the weekends and he’s fine.” “I am glad your friend isn’t using it throughout the week, but I am worried because using any drug during the teen years can be really harmful to your brain. I don’t want you to do anything that can be harmful, that’s why I expect you to not use cannabis.”

For a free download of our one page handout of this information, click the button below!

Learn more about preventing teen marijuana use, and find more specific signs and symptoms of use, on our Marijuana page

We Can Knock Out Teen Vaping For Good. Here’s How.

As adults, helping our teens make good choices can sometimes feel like stepping into the boxing ring, facing off against the challenges that threaten their well-being. One challenge that has become more prominent in recent years is teen vaping. But just like a boxer, you can learn skills to help “knock out” teen vaping in just a few rounds.

Round 1: Knowledge is Power

In this round, you’ll rely on your knowledge of the risks of vaping during adolescence, including: 

We also need to be aware of the new nicotine products that are being marketed to teens so we can keep an eye out for their ever-changing new forms. Having an understanding of why teens vape also shows us where there are opportunities to help and support our teens. Some of these reasons include influence from peers, a misunderstanding of the harmful contents of the aerosol produced by vaping, and coping with stress or anxiety. Equipped with this knowledge, you’ll be better able to help your teen understand the risks of vaping and guide them toward safe choices.

Round 2: Open & Honest Communication

Just like a boxer, teens need people in their corner who can provide strong support and guidance, and this starts with open and honest communication. Approach your teen with empathy and a willingness to listen, and know that you won’t always get everything across in one talk. Use these conversation goals to help guide you in your talks with your teen:

  • Make it clear that you don’t approve of them using any vaping products. Over 80% of 10-18 year olds say their parents are their biggest influence on their decision not to use substances.
  • Show teens you care about their health, safety, and success. Reinforce the reasons you expect your teen to stay vape-free – because you love them and want them to be happy, healthy, and safe. Explain to them that vaping is harmful to their developing brains and can lead to lifelong addiction.
  • Be curious and open-minded about their experiences. Ask them what they think, know, or have heard about vaping. Show them that you are a good source of information if they have questions. 
  • Keep the conversation going. Talk often with your teen about vaping. Take advantage of opportunities when watching movies, TV, and commercials together that feature vaping. Let them know that they can come to you for help with stress, anxiety, or peer pressure. 

Round 3: Strategize for Success

In boxing, strategizing for success means practicing and planning for what might happen in the ring. You can help your teen do the same by practicing and planning for the situations they might encounter in their day-to-day lives. Consider planning for things like:

  • Peer pressure. Practicing how to say “no” can help teens feel more confident and comfortable resisting if a friend or peer offers them a vape.

  • Daily stressors. Stress is a normal part of life, but teens need help learning how to manage it. Discuss what stressors might exist for your teen and brainstorm coping skills that can help them handle stress, such as spending time outside, getting adequate sleep, or positive self-talk. Be open to their suggestions and help them think through some ideas that will work for them.

Follow up often to see how these strategies for success are working, and help them adapt their plans as needed. Celebrate when you notice them putting these strategies into action! 

Round 4: Seek Professional Help

Boxers call on professionals to help them when needed, and you can too. If you’re worried your teen might be vaping, the Partnership to End Addiction can help. There are also teen cessation resources available from The Truth Initiative’s This is Quitting program. Teens can text “BREAKFREE” to 88709 for free, confidential tips and quitting advice delivered straight to their phone to help them quit vaping. If your child is vaping to cope with anxiety or depression, reach out to their primary care doctor or a mental health professional. 

By adopting a boxing mentality, we can get one step closer to knocking out teen vaping for good! For more resources and tips for keeping kids safe from teen vaping, visit our Vaping page here at!

Deadly Pills in the Northland: Time to Take Action

Law enforcement in our area are seeing deaths among Northland teens and young adults linked to pills that appear to be prescription pills or legitimate medicines. These illegal pills are laced with the deadly drug fentanyl and it’s impossible to tell which ones are counterfeit. Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid that is up to 50 times stronger than heroin and 100 times stronger than morphine. Just a few grains of sand worth of fentanyl can be fatal. These pills are being sold on the black market and there is no regulation of any kind. These teeny-tiny pills look harmless, but they’re far from it. They are here — in our Northland counties, neighborhoods and schools.

DEA lab tests reveal that 7 out of every 10 pills with fentanyl contain a potentially lethal dose.

Image Source: Kansas City Police Department

Before you think, “but not my child,” pause for a moment. The reasons teens might come across or seek out these pills are very real. Some teens seek help for sleep. Some think they will perform better in athletics or school. Some just want to take the edge off. Other teens seek out pills because they think it will help them with stress and pain. The anxiety and depression teens are feeling is tough. Some seek thrill and are willing to take the risk. They may think: “It’s medicine so it can’t be harmful, right?”  If our kids are not warned, they may think pills are the solution. Many of these deadly counterfeit pills are being sold over Snapchat and other apps popular with teens. To teens these are seemingly harmless transactions for a “pain pill” or something they believe to be Oxycodone, Percocet, Xanax or Adderall. But they could lead and have led to unimaginably tragic consequences.

Two milligrams of fentanyl, a lethal amount for most adults. (Photo from

Local law enforcement has pulled together a drug task force to address supply and track down those that sell these incredibly dangerous pills. The DEA is working these cases too and urging the media to get the word out. Treatment agencies are overwhelmed with the severity and doing everything they can to provide the support to those who are struggling with addiction.

Two milligrams of fentanyl, a lethal amount for most adults. (Photo from

Our goal at Parent Up is to support parents and guardians in their efforts to keep their kids from taking a fake or non-prescribed prescription pill or using other drugs.

Here are the tips we put out every 6 months or so, written by Kim Downs, a local parent and social worker. We love her take:

“As a parent, I urge you to take this growing issue seriously, and have specific conversations about it in your house. As a school social worker, I am hearing about this over and over. It is happening here and it is real.

Not sure what to say? Emphasize to your kids to never, ever take a pill from anyone or anywhere that isn’t prescribed to them by a doctor or out of its original container. Too many teens have the false perception that “medicine is safe, medicine can’t hurt me.” As caring adults, parents, and guardians, it falls to us to let our teens know the very real dangers of misusing prescription pills. Let your kids know where you stand. 

Let them know you will help them if they are seeking relief from anxiety or depression. Discuss the steps to legally and safely obtain appropriate medications from a doctor, if needed. Be firm that self-prescribing can be deadly, and that your child should never take any pills not prescribed to them by a doctor. Assure your child that their mental well-being is a priority and then make a plan to get help together. They need to hear from caring adults that they have options for relief other than taking matters into their own hands.

Practice what to say if they are offered something. These roleplays let your child know you support them and help give them confidence if a situation arises where they need to say “no.” You can also work with your teen to come up with a code word to text you if they feel like they need your help to get out of an unsafe situation.

They might groan at you. Have these conversations anyway.”

Kim Downs, local parent and social worker

Song for Charlie is a family-run nonprofit charity dedicated to raising awareness about ‘fentapills’ — fake pills made of fentanyl that are poisoning our teens. recommends you say this to your teen:
“You have to assume that any “prescription” pill you buy outside of normal channels is fake, and very possibly deadly. NO RANDOM PILLS!” (They made this short video that you can use in your discussion with your teen.)

Image source: Song For Charlie (

Download and share Parent Up’s one page fentanyl handout to keep our teens safe!

Download and share our one page handout for parents of younger children to keep them safe now and in the future!

Here’s some other resources we think are really helpful too: 

Thank you for taking action today. Give this article a share and help protect area kids.

– The Parent Up Team

Note: This post was originally published on November 18, 2021, but has been updated several times since to reflect more recent local conditions and resources.

Legal Weed is Now in Missouri – Here’s How You Can Help Ensure Kids Stay Drug-Free

With legal marijuana now being sold and marketed in our community, it’s more important than ever that we protect youth from early experimentation. The adolescent brain is unique, growing, and changing daily, and it’s these conditions that allow addiction to set in much more quickly in teens than adults. Also adding to the dangers are high potency marijuana and products like edibles and vapes. The average THC content (the substance that gets you high) in marijuana today has skyrocketed since the 60s, making it stronger and more likely to jumpstart addiction in our vulnerable teens. When the risks of increased access to THC-packed edibles, gummies, and vape cartridges are added to the mix, it’s a recipe for addiction.

The good news is that marijuana rates among youth in the Northland are currently low and we can help keep it that way:

  • Make sure kids in your life know you care about their mental health and well-being. That’s why you don’t want them to use marijuana or any other substances! Set clear expectations that they will stay marijuana-free.

  • Ensure any cannabis products are not accessible to youth.  

  • Help youth gain the confidence to say “no” to marijuana by practicing scenarios and brainstorming what they might say if they are offered marijuana. Prepare your kids for peer pressure and let them know they can come to you for help.

  • Watch for any early signs or symptoms of marijuana use. Be on alert for changes in behaviors, friend groups, or attitudes. Some warning signs include: Glassy, red eyes, slurred speech, dry mouth, a “skunky” smell, anxiety, a drop in grades, quitting activities, and difficulty thinking and problem solving.

Most addiction starts in adolescence: 90% of adults in the U.S. with a drug addiction starting using before age 18, making this the most important time to prevent experimentation with drugs. As adults, we have the power to help protect our kids and prevent addiction, and Parent Up is here to help! Check out all of our marijuana-specific resources here!

How Medicine Safety Can Save Kids’ Lives Now and in the Future

In light of the opioid epidemic and with fentanyl already in our communities, it’s more important than ever to teach our younger kids about medication safety. By being proactive now, we can reduce the number of accidental poisonings directly and lay a foundation to protect our kids well into their future.

It’s not too early to start with age-appropriate education about medicine safety. According to the Missouri Poison Center, students can begin to self-medicate around age 11. Below are five actionable tips and practices about medicine safety we can implement now while our children are still young to help them make safe choices related to medicines when they grow up:

1. Teach your child that they should only take medicine from trusted adults. Make a list of who these people are and remind them of this often.

2. Model responsible medication safety by never sharing medications or using someone else’s medications. Continually reinforce this message with your child, explaining that they should never share medication or take someone else’s medication.

3. Keep medications in their original containers to avoid confusion with other medicines or candy. This is also important because each medication has its own dosage, warnings, and directions for use. One of the most common mistakes when it comes to medication is accidental double dosing.

4. Always store medicine in a safe place, such as a place only you know about or a high shelf that children can’t reach. Don’t keep medicine in your bathroom medicine cabinet where anyone can find it.

5. Participate in regular safe medication disposal. Keeping unused, unwanted, or expired medication out of the house entirely will drastically limit the risks to kids. This month, the DEA’s Drug Take Back Day is on October 29th where people can safely dispose of their prescription pills. You can also find a list of our permanent local drop boxes in the Kansas City Northland here that are open year round.

Research shows that starting preventative education with early elementary school-aged children reduces chronic substance use in high school, and communication is an essential part of keeping our children healthy and safe. Thank you for taking the time to have these conversations and reinforce these medication safety practices.

– Parent Up KC Staff

For more medicine safety tips for your family, check out Scholastic’s Medicine Safety Newsletter.


Download and share our one page handout
of this Insight on medicine safety!

More Resources:

– For talking tips for older kids and teens, read our local Parent Up KC Insight about fentanyl.
– For more information about fentanyl, read the warnings, tips and pictures about fentanyl straight from the DEA.
– Learn more about the DEA’s Take Back Day, held twice a year in April and October.

Discreet and Sweet: Steering Kids Clear of Fruity Nicotine Gum, Tablets, & Pouches

There’s a new trend with teens, especially among those who have tried smoking or vaping: New fruity nicotine gums, tablets, pouches, and lozenges. Popular brands among teens include products from Zyn, Lucy, Rogue, Velo, Solace, On!, and Juice Head. These products may be small, but they pack an addictive nicotine punch.  When powerful nicotine is mixed with fruity flavors, flashy marketing, and bright packaging, it’s no wonder kids fall prey.

Doesn’t this all sound familiar? Youth-friendly marketing and discreet delivery of highly-concentrated nicotine is what finally landed the tobacco and vaping industry in hot water earlier this year. These fruity nicotine products are also very inexpensive when compared to vaping products – generally under $6.00 – and teens see them as “less harmful” because they’re “tobacco-free.” These claims falsely imply these products are healthier and safer than vaping or smoking, when in reality the real threat to our youth is in the highly-concentrated nicotine contained in these new products.

Advertisements found on ( and

The FDA is also fighting to keep products like nicotine gummies off the shelves and out of the hands of kids. The FDA shut down Krave gummies just this week because the company that makes them didn’t first apply for FDA authorization, making them illegal to sell. So far, they have been discontinued and there seems to be no other nicotine gummy products online. About a month ago, FDA Commissioner Dr. Robert Califf warned that, “Nicotine gummies are a public health crisis just waiting to happen among our nation’s youth.” 

Zyn advertisement found at Velo advertisement found on YouTube at
Rogue ad proudly displayed on designer's website at Velo ad found on Facebook (

When it comes to teens, addiction experts and prevention researchers agree: “Exposure to nicotine can interfere with healthy brain development among teens, worsen mood disorders and mental health problems, and affect their ability to learn and pay attention…It also puts them at increased risk of addiction to other substances, as well as other products containing nicotine.”

Even though traditional gums and lozenges already exist to help adults quit smoking, these new oral products seem to be targeting youth to get them hooked early. The marketing is everywhere, as Truth Initiative has pointed out: “Researchers estimated that 38 million pieces of oral nicotine direct mail were sent to U.S. consumers between March 2018 and August 2020 for Velo (RJ Reynolds) and On! (Altria) nicotine pouches and Revel lozenges (RJ Reynolds).”

Comparison image made by KCadmin from images found online (Rogue website, Solace Facebook page, Lucy at, Walmart website, Walgreens website).

We know that most kids choose not to vape or smoke, and most will refuse products like these if they’re offered. We also know that adult support and conversations really help when the pressure mounts and the offer for teens to “try it,” is there.

As adults, we can help youth by:

  • Having conversations about our nicotine-free expectations early and often, including cigarettes, vaping, and these products. 
  • Warning kids and teens of the risks of using nicotine while they’re brain is still developing, including harm to their brains and lifelong addiction (learn more on our Vaping page).
  • Helping them gain confidence by practicing saying “no” to their peers when offered a nicotine product. 
  • Reminding our kids they can come to us for help with peer pressure, stress, or anxiety.

By Parent Up KC Staff

Underage Drinking: It’s on Us to Protect Kids

by Parent Up Staff

As adults we have the opportunity, and the obligation, to do everything we can to make sure our young people have healthy and bright futures. Adults working together can support policies, attitudes, and actions that prevent underage drinking and help youth thrive. Read on to see how you can help: 

Why should we care about preventing underage drinking?

The teen years are a sensitive time for brain development and underage drinking only adds fuel to the fire. The years between childhood and adulthood aren’t the easiest and youth need help from adults along the way. Underage drinking and teen drug use can negatively affect young people’s school performance, future job prospects, and physical and mental health, damaging their lives well into adulthood. 90% of adults with substance use disorders started using alcohol or other drugs in their teen years, so it’s important to take early and ongoing action.

What impacts a teen’s likelihood to drink alcohol?

While kids are the ones who take the drink, there are a lot of factors outside the teen that lead to this decision. When alcohol is more available, youth are more likely to drink. Also, when teens think it is “ok” or “cool,” or the adults around them allow minors to drink, they are more likely to drink alcohol. Finally, when teens think they are safe from any harm, like legal trouble, we see rates of teen drinking increase. Each of these factors can be addressed at a community level and Parent Up asks for all adults to help protect our youth.

What steps can adults take to help reduce underage drinking in our community?

Adults can help reduce the number of teens drinking by:

  1. Refusing to provide alcohol to minors—even during special occasions. When adults refuse, fewer kids use.  
  2. Letting the youth in your life know you care about their mental well-being.  If they’re feeling stressed, anxious, depressed, or bored, adults can help find healthy solutions for relief rather than them turning to alcohol or other drugs. 
  3. Setting clear, no alcohol use expectations with the kids in your life. When adults set boundaries and stand firm, kids feel safe and know what to do when peer pressure mounts.
  4. Making a game plan with the teens in your life before they go out or spend time with friends, so they know what is expected and how to refuse if alcohol is offered.  

At Parent Up, our hope is to help equip parents and other caring adults with tools and resources to help prevent substance use of any kind by youth. Thank you for caring and thanks for taking action to help! For more tips, tools, and resources on youth alcohol use or preventing any drug use with our teens, feel free to explore around

Giving Devices a Seat…Away From the Table

Have you noticed that at Parent Up, we ARE OBSESSED with encouraging families to sit down and eat meals together?! Why the bias?  Well, it’s the simple “benefits outweigh the costs” argument:  Having-regular, unplugged, eat-whatever-wherever-as-long-as-you-connect-together meals is associated with lower rates of substance use and depression, better peer relationshipsmore self-esteem, and even better grades! More meaningful meals = healthier, safer and smarter kids!  

There’s a lot of things that get in the way of having meaningful meals – activities, school, work schedules – families are busier than ever!  Then there’s toddlers and teenagers who might dish out a few servings of attitude, pickiness, and exhaustion too.  BUT, if we’re honest, there’s probably another thing that gets in the way of your family sitting down, connecting and conversing over a meal:  The Digital Age. The times have been a-changin’ and family meal time looks a lot different now than it did even 20 years ago!

Common Sense Media commissioned a poll of nearly 900 families with children between the ages of 2 and 17 years old and they found that “devices aren’t welcome but often have a seat at the table anyway.” Their research found that even though 88% of adults don’t think it’s OK to use a phone at a family dinner, 47% of parents said they or a family member used a mobile device at dinner in the last week. Thirty-four percent said they had the TV on for all or most dinners.

There’s often a really good reason to have these devices out; you saw something funny today on a post from a friend or there’s details to confirm for tomorrow.  But, unless we’re careful, devices have a way of creeping in and taking up more of our meal-time attention than we desire.  The consequence of this imbalance of more tech and less-eye contact, according to researcher Sherry Turkle, paints a bleak picture, leaving all of us with less empathy, compassion and connection.

Can you make your meal-time more meaningful by giving devices a seat away from the table?!  Once the meal is ready, ask that everyone put their devices on silent or leave them in another room.  It will be more likely to happen if you make this an identified spot.  We’re encouraging families to make an Unplugged Box: a mobile home for your mobile phone during meals (and any other times you want to unplug)!  Putting devices in a place away from the table will ensure that they don’t distract from this important, meaningful time together.

Our goal here at Parent Up is to help parents have the tools, resources, and confidence to raise kids that are healthy and drug-free.  We will be around the Kansas City Northland community this fall, sharing the good news about the impact of family meals and providing you with a box and supplies to make your own unplugged box!  We are excited to partner in this project and help your family be more intentional about mealtime.  Watch out, you might like it so much, you become obsessed with it too!

 – By Parent Up KC Staff

An Open Letter to My Son about Drinking

When my now 22-year-old son, who will be a senior in college next year, was entering 10th grade, I started getting a lot of questions from family and friends. They wondered how I was going to handle his inevitable experimentation with alcohol. When I expressed the idea that Tom might decide not to drink until he was 21, I was accused of living under a rock. It was just assumed that my son would drink, no matter what I thought or said. When the subject came up with other parents, a frequent response I got was, “I don’t want my kid to drink, but of course they will.” Or, “Kids will be kids,” And my personal favorite, “Well we did it when we were their age.”


Really? Is this the criteria we are going to base our parenting on? I’ve always felt it’s my job as a parent to set the boundary and my kid’s job to test it. Because I’m a writer and blogger, I decided to write my feelings about this in a letter to my son. 


I wanted Tom to know where my husband and I stood on engaging in behaviors that are at best risky and at worst illegal or life-threatening. I joked that at least he could never say he didn’t know how I felt. I expected some people to disagree with me. I knew members in my own family, including my dad, did. But I never expected the letter would go viral, being shared hundreds of thousands of times. And that even seven years later, I would still on occasion be contacted about it.


A few weeks ago Tom and I were discussing the fact that he did choose not to drink until he turned 21. I never thought my letter was a real factor in his choice. I thought it had more to do with having friends that just weren’t into drinking.  

In fact even though they are now over 21 and can legally drink, alcohol just isn’t a big part of their lives. 


So I was surprised when he said that the letter did play a part in his choice. Well not the letter as much as what it represented. Tom knew exactly how we felt. We had many honest discussions about the dangers of drinking, especially the dangers of binge drinking. But the letter was a tangible reminder.


I want to be very clear, I don’t think I’m a good parent because my kid didn’t drink before he was 21. And I don’t think someone is a bad parent if their kid does choose to drink before the legal age. I do think our kids deserve a clear answer on how we feel about underage drinking. And if it’s a behavior we don’t want them to engage in, I think we should tell them. 



Dear Tom,


The legal drinking age in this country is 21. Please know that dad and I will never allow you to have alcohol in our house or in our presence until you reach that age. Please also know that no good has ever come from a group of teenagers drinking. It’s a recipe for all kinds of disasters. If you should choose to drink, you’ll not only be breaking the rules of our house, you’ll be breaking the law. If you get stopped for driving under the influence, or the police get called to a party where you have been drinking, you may be in a position where we can’t protect you.


Always call me and your dad. ALWAYS. No matter what you have done. Don’t ever follow up a bad choice with one that’s worse just because you’re afraid of disappointing us or making us angry. Will we be happy? Of course not. But we would much rather get you and any friend who wants to come with you home safely, than get a call saying you are NEVER coming home.


Let me be clear that the fact that we love you and will stand by you does not in any way mean we will stand by while you do things that you know aren’t good for you. There are those who will tell you that your parents are being unreasonable and totally unrealistic. Some may tell you that you are a teenager and it’s a rite of passage to get drunk. They may even regale you with stories of their own youthful mistakes.


Listen to your own heart and trust your gut. Also know there is nothing cool about waking up in your own vomit, or having a DUI before you are 18. Your father and I are so proud of the man you are becoming. We love you so much that we don’t care if you hate us. That’s our gift to you — we are your parents, not your friends.




Kathy Radigan is a writer, blogger, mom to three, wife to one, and the one time owner of a possessed appliance. She is the creator of the blog, My Dishwasher’s Possessed! Kathy’s work has been featured in HuffPost, Scary Mommy, Yahoo, Her View From Home, TODAY Parents, Romper, and many other online publications. Her new project is sharing her experience as a parent to a daughter with special needs on The Special Needs Nest by Kathy Radigan.

Drawing Boundaries for Safe, Healthy Kids

Diane Pickert is a Community Prevention Specialist at Tri-County Mental Health Services in Kansas City, MO.  Her background education is in Early Childhood Development, Communication, and Religious Education.  She’s finishing her Masters at the moment from Maryvale Institute in Birmingham, England.  Diane’s focus has always been on the connection between faith, family and raising healthy children.

My 3 year-old grandson Ambrose drew a mural with markers, not once, but twice on walls in their family home.  First, all over the dining room wall and a year later, all over the upstairs hallway.  Needless to say, my daughter and her husband have had to set some boundaries with markers.  

It is normal in development for children in their early years to push their limits, which is why it is important to start setting boundaries young.  By setting these boundaries and establishing consequences, it helps children develop self-control, supports development, and fosters a moral compass.

Here are some reasons kids and teens need boundaries:

  • Boundaries teach self-discipline
  • Boundaries keep our children safe and healthy
  • Boundaries teach children how to socialize
  • Boundaries teach children how to cope with uncomfortable feelings
  • Boundaries encourage good behavior and good citizenship as they grow older
  • Boundaries are reassuring and actually show children you care about them

In adolescence, kids start testing limits with relationships and their bodies.  The emotional center of the adolescent brain is hyper-sensitive to risk and reward and it often overrides the underdeveloped front of the brain (the prefrontal cortex) where complex thought and decision making happens.  Adolescents are more likely to try things like drinking alcohol, vaping, or driving at dangerous speeds, leaving parents reminiscing of the days of coloring on the walls!

Setting boundaries helps the adolescent brain create pathways as your child grows up.  It shows kids you care about their health and development and makes them feel safe.  Setting firm boundaries and having regular conversations with your children will help them become responsible for their own actions, attitudes and emotions. Maintaining these boundaries will instill character in your children which will encourage them to lead a balanced, and resilient life well into their adult years.  And if your child is anything like my grandson, they will probably “color on the walls” more than once.  That’s ok and it doesn’t mean that your boundaries aren’t worth it.  Boundaries need to be defined more than once for adolescents. 

I’m sure as Ambrose continues to grow older he will need more boundaries set for different reasons.  His parents will have many conversations with him, not because they want to stifle his curiosity or creativity, but because they simply love him and want him to be safe. Don’t be afraid to set boundaries for your kids and teens.  It enhances their ability to cope with life’s disappointments (without drugs like nicotine and marijuana) and helps them gain a sense of control.  Make sure you have regular conversations with your children and, most importantly, love them even in the midst of their mistakes.

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