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Ask an Expert: Talking to your kids about pot

Q. How do you talk to your kids about your own past experiences with marijuana or is it best to leave this one alone? With so much medical marijuana everywhere, my kids sometimes have questions. Neither of my kids has any interest in pot at this point – but I don’t know how best to deal with their questions without feeling like a total hypocrite. At the same time, I don’t want to condone pot smoking by my kids.

Q. This is a conundrum most of us parents have to or will have to deal with because, let’s be honest, who amongst us did not have at least a couple of “big nights” in our pasts?  In addition, kids are not dumb; they know that most people in theirs and the previous generation did experiment here and there.  Turning a blind eye to a problem or a potential problem does not make that problem go away, but can make things worse.

That being said, I do believe that talking to your kids about drugs is helpful. I generally tell parents to talk to kids about drugs as they enter seventh grade, and only if there is suspicion or if students bring it up.  I advise that the conversation should have a Socratic, not lecture feel to it.

Importance of asking questions

In other words, ask them questions about drugs.

  • What do they know about marijuana?
  • What do their friends say?
  • Have they ever seen it?
  • Do they know anybody who uses it?
  • What do they think it does?
  • What is good about it?
  • What is bad about it?

After hearing their thoughts, you can offer yours, such as how marijuana causes an increase risk of lung cancer, loss of productivity and motivation, loss of freedom (both from the law or angry parents), short term memory problems, weight gain, depression and anxiety.

Get them thinking it is probably a bad thing.  Let them know what you would tolerate or wouldn’t with any use.  This conversation would need to be very different if you are first having it after a child has demonstrated problems because of use.  In that case, whether you are a hypocrite or not, they are the ones having a problem and therefore need to deal with that.

To tell, or not to tell

Meanwhile, I believe you do not have to disclose your personal experiences with marijuana unless your child directly asks you. In that case, I do think you should be honest, but not necessarily to the level of: “Oh me and Bob Marley had some good times!”

I think you directly say that you realize you may sound like a hypocrite but that, as a parent who loves and cares about your child, you feel obligated to protect him or her.  You stand to your beliefs around the negative aspects of marijuana, and that you will enforce your rules around that accordingly.

You may even say to your child that chances are, he or she will be offered and try it at some point. Ask that they tell you about that as well, and reassure them that you would want to talk about it and not just be punitive.

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