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How to talk to your kids about pot

Posted on Mar. 24, 2015 ( comments)
Marijuana plants

With recreational marijuana now being sold legally in Washington state, kids and teens may be getting mixed messages about the drug. What’s a parent to do?

Stephen Reville, MD, Physician Executive of Mary Bridge Children's Hospital, suggests a three-step approach:

  1. Give young people the facts
  2. Set clear expectations
  3. Help kids develop skills to steer clear of drugs

The facts

Children and teens are more vulnerable to harmful effects from marijuana (and other psychoactive drugs) because their brains are still developing.

Addiction rates are higher for marijuana users who start in their teens rather than later in life, especially if they’re daily users, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA). 

As new drivers, teenagers are especially at risk if they use pot and get behind the wheel. NIDA says marijuana roughly doubles a driver’s chance of being in an accident.

Pot in any form is illegal for those under 21. Getting busted could have life-long consequences, affecting a student’s chance of getting into college or anyone’s hopes of landing a job.

Clear expectations

Although teens seem to shrug off any advice from parents, they do listen and they do care about what their parents think, says Dr. Reville.

He recommends setting specific family rules and consequences for using marijuana (such as being grounded or losing driving privileges).

It helps to talk about not using drugs in the context of other healthy behaviors you expect from family members, such as eating nutritious meals and getting enough sleep.

Tools to stay away from drugs

If you’re wondering how to talk to your kids about drugs, look around for conversation starters — such as news items about a sports star suspended for drug use or a music celebrity entering drug rehab. 

Milestones in your child’s life — starting a new grade in school or joining a sports team — can also prompt conversations about new friends and new situations.

Dr. Reville advises parents to think in terms of teachable moments.

Talking is good, but Dr. Reville says even better is helping your child develop skills to turn down drugs.

Role-playing a scenario gives them a chance to practice, for example, how to handle being offered pot at a friend’s house or party.

You can play the role of the friend with weed and your son or daughter can practice coming up with firm, friendly responses.

Reassure your child that their friends will most likely respect their decision. Help your child think of alternative activities to suggest instead of using drugs.

For more tips on coaching your kids to turn down drugs, check out Partnership for Drug-Free Kids.

Posted in: Kids' Health

About The Author

Kathleen Klein Kathleen Klein
For two decades, Kathleen has been writing about how our bodies work and how to keep them healthy. She is the mother of a college student and an ornery cat. Away from her writing desk, Kathleen loves to garden, read mysteries and hike with her husband.  More stories by this author
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