Cannabis Conversations: Talking to Kids
Talking alking about marijuana is a tough subject for a lot of parents, whether it be their own use or their child’s potential use. Our nation’s diverse marijuana laws only complicate it further. I am not a parent, but I spoke with many parents for my book, “Mary Jane: The Complete Marijuana Handbook for Women,” most of whom are involved in the cannabis movement and have a lot of experience with the subject, as well as the public’s reactions to it. With few exceptions, the parents I spoke with believed honesty was the best policy — albeit at the right time and in the proper context.
When parents choose to have “the talk” about marijuana use, their children usually fall into two age ranges: younger kids, usually still in elementary school, and teenagers. Many parents like to wait until the junior high and high school years, when they know their kids will likely be exposed to marijuana from outside sources. Parents usually prefer that their children learn the truth about the effects and risks of pot use at home, instead of hearing hyped-up propaganda from school authorities or misinformation from their friends.
Other parents prefer to talk to their kids about marijuana earlier, when their children are in elementary school. Sometimes it’s a school unit on drugs or a presentation from the Drug Abuse Resistance Education (D.A.R.E) that raises the topic — and for some parents, like Deanna, a 39-year-old Minnesota mother of four, medical issues forced the talk. Deanna sat her kids down after being reunited with them following a brain surgery.
“We talked openly and honestly, and they watched me trade out my medications from the pharmacy with natural medicine,” she says. “I don’t medicate in front of my kids, I never have, but I know they have talked to their friends about it and educated them about it.”
Oregon mom Lindsey, who uses cannabis to treat her multiple sclerosis, says she just got tired of hiding it, so she stopped. She talked to her kids in an age-appropriate manner about what marijuana is — and isn’t — and how it helped her. She also explained that they lived in a state where using marijuana to treat disease was illegal, which is why she had to keep her medicine a secret. Now her family has moved to Oregon, and she can finally have safe, legal access to the plant that best treats her serious medical condition. And I’m happy to report that all 14 pharmaceutical medications she once needed to survive in an illegal state have been replaced with cannabis. Amazing!
TIPS FOR TALKING TO KIDS ABOUT CANNABIS
- Talking to kids about marijuana is a lot like talking to them about sex. Keep it simple and at a level the child can grasp.
- “Marijuana as medicine” is a great way for younger kids to grasp the concept. A first grader can understand that a plant can help with mommy’s migraine, but she’s unlikely to grasp the complexities of constitutional law and the political implications of the war on drugs.
- As that first grader gets older, the more complex issues surrounding marijuana can make great teaching vehicles and help to get kids interested in subjects like science, health, civics, government and more. In fact, the subject is a perfect one for high school research projects and essay themes on the debate over cannabis.
- Turn on the tube! Orange County, California, dad Robert sat his entire family down for a viewing of the documentary, “What If Cannabis Cured Cancer” to begin an honest discussion about marijuana with his three kids. This and other well-researched but easy-to-follow documentaries can provide the perfect place to start a discussion with kids old enough to understand.
- “Do as I say, not as I do”: Without a doubt, one of the biggest dilemmas facing parents is how to discourage their kids from using marijuana without seeming hypocritical. The parents I talked to again cited honesty. They explained to their teen and tween kids that there are substances like marijuana and alcohol that are for adult use only. They also took time to explain there isn’t enough research on marijuana and the developing brain to know what kind of damage marijuana can cause in young people. The ultimate message should be: Wait until you are an adult to decide whether or not to use marijuana.