It’s hard to believe it’s already been almost three years since recreational marijuana use was made legal here in Colorado. Many folks applauded the decision, which brought tons of new jobs to the state, and recreational dispensaries have popped up in every neighborhood. However, legalizing weed for adults has had the unfortunate side effect of normalizing it for kids. In my opinion, the stigma that was once associated with marijuana use is all but gone nowadays, which means it’s more important than ever to be able to talk about it with your kids, starting at a very young age.
My own view on marijuana use is rather mixed. Obviously I don’t want my children using it at all, but my oldest kid is actually an adult – she’s 21 years old – and she is a regular marijuana user. She uses marijuana to manage her severe anxiety and depression, and the effects of it have been tremendous. While she had minimal success using typical antidepressants in the past, the side effects for her were unbearable. I have to admit that marijuana has helped her mental health improve dramatically. Still, I would do anything possible to keep my middle schoolers from using it.
Our family’s situation is a perfect example of how important it is to realize that even if you, as an adult, use recreational marijuana in a responsible way, you can still prevent your kids from using it by having clear rules about it in your house. The 2015 Healthy Kids Colorado Survey showed that kids who have clear family rules are 1.7 times less likely to use – and, if a parent believes underage recreational marijuana use is wrong, their children are four times less likely to use marijuana. Clearly talking about it helps.
But how do we begin this conversation? How do we empower our kids so they can say no to underage marijuana use? GoodToKnowColorado.com is here to help, with great tools and tips to start the conversation with the kids in your life. The site features information including:
- Tips for how to talk with youth at different ages
- Tips for teachers and coaches to speak with the youth they serve
- Information on the legal consequences of using recreational marijuana before age 21, including Minor in Possession charges, loss of financial aid or employment, and being removed from sports teams or extracurricular activities
- Information on the health effects of using recreational marijuana before age 21, including difficulty learning, memory issues, negative impacts on athletic performance and impaired judgment
- Marijuana 101 information including today’s methods of consumption and slang terms so adults can familiarize themselves with the different ways youth use and talk about marijuana.
Tips for Talking to Youth Ages 13- to 16-Years-Old
Since my kids are middle school age, I found the tips at GoodToKnowColorado.com/talk to be really helpful. Here are a few I liked, along with what has worked for me and my kids.
- Start the Conversation – Find the best way to talk to your kids. Don’t sit them down like they’re in trouble. Begin a casual discussion in the car or on a walk. I think text messages work too.
- Listen – Be a good listener and let them speak. Don’t just wait for your turn to talk. When your kids feel like they are really being heard, they will be way more likely to listen when you speak, and more likely to open up to you.
- Establish Clear Rules – Make sure your family “policy” is well known. Tell them the rules and the consequences, and stick with them.
- Talk Through Scenarios – Prepare them for what they may expect in different situations. Keep talking.
- Role Play How To Say “No” – Sometimes we all need a prepared response to a situation. Help your kids feel like they have their responses ready.
- Focus on Positive Messages – My kids are more likely to do what I want when they think it’s their idea, and this only happens when I focus on the positive, such as reminding them that 4 out of 5 high school kids don’t use marijuana at all.
- Talk About Friends – Know who their friends are and what they’re into. Their friends have way more of an influence on them than we do.
- Promote Self-confidence – Image is everything to kids trying to find their place in the world, and most kids don’t want to be labeled as a stoner. Build them up.
- Help Them Achieve Their Goals – Kids who have hobbies and activities they are passionate about will prioritize those interests. Keep them busy.
- Keep Your Relationship Strong – Let your kids know that you are on their side and will do anything to help set them up for success, so that they have the confidence to make the right choices.
These tips should help you get the conversation going at your house. You can find many more tips and ideas at GoodToKnowColorado.com/talk.
Disclosure: I am partnering with the Good To Know Colorado campaign to help other parents educate themselves and begin an open dialogue with their kids about the dangers of underage marijuana use. The thoughts and opinions stated here are my own.