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

As legislation and public attitudes about marijuana (or cannabis) shift, it can be a tricky topic to address with teens. Yet, teens who have conversations with their parents/caregivers, and know their no-use expectations, are HALF as likely to ever use drugs like cannabis compared to their peers. Parent UP is here to encourage and equip you to use your influence to prevent youth marijuana use and these tips should help!

Setting the Stage for Conversations with Your Child

  • Try to put yourself in your child’s shoes.
    Try  to talk to your teen 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 your child knows and thinks about marijuana first will help you know where to start your conversations about the drug.

  • Keep an open mind, but a firm stance.
    Make it clear to your child that you care about them so you don’t approve of them using marijuana.  Tell your child you don’t want them to risk their safety, brain development, or future and you expect them to remain marijuana-free.  Express concern and set clear boundaries so they know where you stand.  You are building a foundation for a relationship with your child that is honest, trusting, and open, which is an important protective factor to safeguard your child against cannabis and other drug use now and in the future.

  • Talk often!
    Conversations are more likely to be successful when they take place more casually. For example, while you’re driving in the car, taking a walk, or washing dishes after dinner with your teen. Sometimes there’s even something in your environment that can spur a conversation, like when you drive past a smoke shop with your teen or you’re watching a TV show 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 1 in 3 youth (34.5%) had at least one friend who smoked marijuana.)
  • “There’s a lot of information about marijuana out there, but I want you to know that it is never okay for kids to use.”
  • “Your brain is growing 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. Many people think that because the risk of overdose or death is so small compared to alcohol, that marijuana is “safe.” But the truth is, even IF it’s less harmful, that doesn’t mean it’s NOT harmful. Your brain and body are growing so much right now, and using drugs during this time can have long term impacts on your brain and your health. Using marijuana/cannabis as a teenager can also put you at greater risk of car accidents and making poor choices about sex or other drug use.”
“Medical 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, it doesn’t make sense. There are many natural plants that are harmful to humans, like poison ivy, tobacco, and the fact that heroin 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} “Marijuana was a much less potent substance when I was a kid and I am really not happy with the decisions that I made when I did smoke. When you’re high or stoned, the ability to make good decisions is questionable and 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 we expect you to not use cannabis.”

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

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

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.

What We Want Every Parent to Know

There’s yard signs, news headlines, and lawsuits buzzing around us. No, we are not talking about the election. We’re talking about medical marijuana. In 2018, Missouri voters approved a constitutional amendment to allow medical marijuana to be grown, manufactured, dispensed, and used in Missouri. You will soon (if you haven’t yet) start to notice this new industry pop up in various ways in our communities. While there’s plenty we could talk about related to medical marijuana, our goals at Parent Up are specific:  Empower and equip parents to protect their kids from early engagement in all substance use. With this in mind, here is what we want every parent to know to help keep their kids and teens safe:

  1. Many in the local medical marijuana industry, health experts, and addiction researchers agree:  No amount of marijuana for youth is safe. Marijuana is dangerous for young, developing brains and the earlier someone starts to use marijuana, the greater their chance of becoming dependent on it. The average potency of THC in the marijuana sold today is higher than ever before and science is just starting to measure the impact. While every brain and body is impacted differently, we do know that adolescents are more vulnerable to the negative impacts of marijuana use. If teens use marijuana, their risk of addiction, mental health problems, impaired driving, and problems with thinking, memory, learning and coordination increase.

  2. Medical marijuana, is still marijuana. It is now legal for individuals and businesses who qualify to grow, manufacture, recommend, sell, market, smoke, vape, consume, and use marijuana. Medical marijuana will come in a lot of different products (edibles, candies, concentrates, buds, waxes, cartridges for vapes, and more) at various unregulated potencies. With increased availability of THC-packed marijuana, we need to do everything we can to ensure this substance is not diverted to youth.

  1. Now’s the time to take action to protect your kids and other young people from any early use of any marijuana:  Learn more about the vulnerable adolescent brain so you are energized to protect it.  Communicate a strong stance against all youth substance use, including marijuana.  Keep marijuana out of reach of youth, and watch for any early warning signs of use or risk factors.

As more marijuana comes to our communities, Parent Up is here to help. Throughout our resources, you can read more about the impact of marijuana on youth, learn what to say (or not to say) to your teen, take action if you know adults who provide marijuana, and like and share our messages on Facebook. Worried your child may be using marijuana or other drugs?  The Partnership to End Addiction can helpThanks for doing all you can to protect the health and safety of your kids!

 

From, Your Parent Up KC Staff

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