So, you decided that you have to talk to your child about cannabis.
As a responsible parent, it’s your job to discuss your cannabis use with your child, but actually going about it isn’t as easy—especially if you use it yourself.
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How can you open up that conversation? When is it time, and what should you talk about? Can you be honest about cannabis and still discourage them from using it before they’re old enough?
We’re here to help you plan it out.
When Should You Have “The Talk”?
Deciding when to talk to your kids about your cannabis use is sometimes more difficult than actually having that talk. This will vary depending on the overall view of cannabis in your local area. Keep in mind that cannabis use is more acceptable in cities like Seattle and Portland, but may still be frowned upon in more conservative cities within legal states.
Young children needn’t know about your cannabis use, but you may want to tell them by the time they reach school-age if they’re likely to talk about it with their friends. Children innocently discuss these things and you don’t want anyone to get the wrong impression.
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If you want to wait until your child is able to understand, it’s still best to start before middle school. A not-insignificant percentage of children have used cannabis by the time they were in eighth grade, and that percentage has been rising as cannabis use becomes normalized across the United States.
You want to be the person to talk to your child about cannabis before they learn from a peer or from fear tactics established by school anti-drug programs.
Explaining Your Own Cannabis Use
So how do you explain why and how you use cannabis without confusing your child or encouraging them to try it on their own?
You have to have an open and honest conversation. Here are a few basic tips that can help you start the talk.
Do Your Research First
You want to be well-informed before you start discussing cannabis use with your children. The goal is to present the facts with as little bias as possible.
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Talk about the history of cannabis and why it’s prohibited under federal law, but legal in many states. Mention the racial history of cannabis prohibition and the need for comprehensive reform. Depending on the age of your child, you will have to simplify this somewhat, but it’s good to give as much information on this sensitive issue as you can.
Make sure that you truly know about the benefits of cannabis before you start explaining them to your children. Many people are misinformed both by anti-drug campaigns and pro-cannabis campaigns. The truth is often in the middle.
Talk About the Benefits of Cannabis for You (and Others)
It’s important to discuss why you use cannabis. To do this, talk about how it benefits you specifically.
Keep in mind that for most people, cannabis is not a “treatment.” It’s not medicine in the traditional sense, and children often get confused if you refer to it in that way only.
It’s okay to talk about cannabis for medical use, but always fact-check yourself.
Remember that your benefits won’t necessarily be benefits that other people experience. You could talk to your children about how the benefits that you experience could apply to them in the future, but don’t sugarcoat it.
Discuss Boundaries Around Cannabis Use
When your child is old enough to talk to you about cannabis, they’re also old enough to discuss boundaries (even if it’s in a simple way).
If the sentiment applies to you, you could mention how you don’t use cannabis when you have responsibilities to take care of. This may vary depending on whether you’re using marijuana or CBD.
If you use traditional cannabis recreationally, consider explaining it like you’d explain drinking. It’s something that you do to unwind, but you don’t let it get in the way of caring for them.
Ask them how they feel about your cannabis use and if they’d like to set any boundaries with you. Talk about their comfort levels.
Talk About Risks
You can’t discuss cannabis use without discussing the risks of it. Remember, you’re not here to fearmonger, but to make them informed.
There aren’t many risks of cannabis use for most people. That said, that doesn’t mean that you should leave them out of the conversation.
Common risks and side effects include:
- Increased anxiety for some people
- Lung damage (if the user is vaping or smoking)
- Dry mouth
- Rapid heart rate
These risks are mild, but it’s still helpful to point them out so your child doesn’t get scared by these symptoms if they do choose to try cannabis later on.
Discouraging Underage Use
It’s natural for children and teenagers to be curious about cannabis use. While there’s no way to prevent it, encourage your child to wait until they’re of legal age before they try (take some time to look up what the legal age for cannabis consumption is in your state). Also, encourage them to try it in a safe environment for the first time.
Remember, if you’re in a legal state, this conversation shouldn’t be too different from discouraging your child from underage alcohol use.
Keep an open line of communication with your child and establish trust. Let them know that you won’t punish them for their curiosity and that they can always come to you with questions. Children are generally more likely to “sneak around” if you don’t have a trusting relationship.
Talk about the potential impact that cannabis could have on young, developing brains and how that differs from the impact that it has on adults. This can help them understand why it’s better to wait.
How to Talk to Kids About Cannabis: Are You Ready?
As a parent, it’s scary to discuss cannabis use with your kids. It’s hard to feel out the right moment to bring up the discussion, and the conversation itself can be tricky.
These tips should help you navigate this new frontier so you and your child are able to have an open and honest dialogue about cannabis.