How to Talk About Legalized Marijuana with Your Children
The roster of topics to discuss with our kids continues to grow. From academics to social media, juuls to social decisions, as parents we face a dizzying array of conversations to facilitate. The legalization of marijuana for recreational use in California has intensified the importance of discussing marijuana and other substances. The conversation couldn’t come too soon. A recent study indicates that children in the first two states to legalize marijuana, Washington and Colorado, believe the drug is less harmful than children do in states where pot remains illegal. Yes, there is plenty to talk about with those we love most.
The experts at Sacramento Country Coalition for Youth (SCCY) firmly believe, and research indicates, that parents play the most critical role in a child’s decision to smoke marijuana or not, or to drink or not to drink alcohol. The SCCY has launched a “Future Forward” campaign that serves as an excellent launching pad to discuss drug and alcohol use with our children.
This program reminds children, as the hashtag declares, that #itsmyfuture so as to reinforce that each decision we make in our lives is ultimately our own. This goal-oriented program emphasizes a positive future and message while also citing examples of how marijuana use can impair this success.
As parents we are well aware of the social pressure faced by many of our children. The constant pressure of social media often serves to exacerbate peer pressure, an additional factor that most parents never experienced and that many parents still consider foreign territory.
Frequent conversations about what is going on socially, online and among friends should serve as a standard for communication. The more we communicate with our kids, the easier it is to do so. And always let them know they can call you at any time if they feel they are in an uncomfortable situation.
Of course, conversation must be a dialog and not a monologue. The Future Forward theme emphasizes that parents listen to their kids as well as instruct them. A true conversation invites our kids to ask questions and to feel comfortable with us when we might not know the answer. It is important to know where kids stand and what they are experiencing. Doing research together is yet another way to share information and opinions about teen use of marijuana.
Children’s Hospital Colorado instructs us always look for opportunities to discuss marijuana use with our children. “Maybe it’s when you’re driving past a dispensary or see a character on TV smoking pot. Start asking questions like, ‘What do you know about marijuana?’ and ‘What do you think about legalization of marijuana?’
Children’s Hospital also references creating an environment of open communication where you can have “age-appropriate conversations with young children, tweens, teens and young adults.” They also remind us to have conversations and not lectures when discussing marijuana and alcohol, and to keep the judgments at bay. An active listening parent often leads to a more talkative child.
A Time magazine article indicates it is never too soon to discuss marijuana use with kids. Children as young as preschool will no doubt notice new signs featuring colorful leaves and lettering. Alison Holcomb, a Seattle attorney who actually wrote the new marijuana law in Washington State, believes the change in the law provided a perfect opportunity to discuss marijuana. The same is true for Californians today. “This is a great time for parents to sit down with their kids and explain the fact that just because something is no longer a crime does not mean it’s necessarily good for you.”
The ACLU attorney goes on to say in the Time article, “We need to have a heart-to-heart and say, ‘Please don’t do this until you’re older and the risk is less for you.”
Though some studies offer varying outcomes, most show that marijuana use in young people whose brains are still in development can be very destructive, altering mood, concentration and mental health in the long term. Reviewing this research together (it’s readily available on the Internet) can let the experts “do the talking” with statistics that back up their arguments.
The Sacramento County Coalition for Youth is providing excellent forums as kids enter the more unscheduled part of the year, a spring and summer often filled with hanging out and other parent-free socializing. SCCY will host Town Hall Meetings dedicated to the prevention of underage drinking and youth marijuana use. Sign up on the Sacramentoccy.org website to receive alerts on when these events will take place this summer.
Most of us didn’t think we’d be discussing the legalization of marijuana when our teenagers were born. By encouraging dialog and participating in sessions like the SCCY Town Hall Meetings we can communicate information and guide our children to put their Future Forward, as we do in every other element of their young lives. Visit the SCCY website to learn more.