Teens and Pot: Parenting with Legalized Marijuana

Teens and Pot: Parenting with Legalized Marijuana

*This is a sponsored post working with CDPHE’s Good to Know Colorado Campaign.  All opinions and parenting panic my own. 

In the blink of an eye my focus has changed from worrying about basic skills – potty training, teeth brushing, playing well with others – to prepping my kids for more adult issues such as drinking, smoking, driving responsibly, and mitigating peer pressure.  Some of these have been around for years and I have a basic template for how to address them.  After all, I was a kid once – albeit many, MANY years ago.  However, there are new issues now that my parents never faced. Things like what age to get a cell phone, social media boundaries, and legalized retail marijuana (for 21+ year olds) in Colorado.

talking to teens about pot

And let’s face it, my daughter started high school this year and my son started middle school. They are right in the middle of prime time teen angst and drama and pressure. They are watching their friends navigate these decisions about smoking pot, drinking,and sex and in turn deciding for themselves.  I know that my 9th grade daughter has been offered marijuana, more than once actually. And if my 7th grade son hasn’t been faced with that decision already then he will within the next year.  

Did you know?  One third of kids that use retail marijuana as seniors in high school started using before they were 15.  

Ideally we should be talking to our kids well BEFORE they are  first offered marijuana and continue to talk to them as they grow..  This isn’t a one time, check-the-box topic; it’s more of an ongoing discussion. If you think it doesn’t matter or that your kids won’t listen to you, think again. The recent Healthy Kids Colorado Survey found that kids  are FOUR times less likely to try marijuana if parents are opposed to it and almost twice as likely not to try it if your family has clear rules. 

This isn’t just about my teen and preteen, my eight year old needs to be part of these conversations too.  Ideally I should have started talking to all my kids when they were younger, but I just wasn’t sure how to broach the subject or if it was the right time or a bazillion other inadequate reasons for delaying.  But no longer.

So, how do I talk to my kids  about it? How do I prepare them to turn down marijuana when it’s offered? How do I convince them that it’s not a good choice when I have no experience myself to draw from and can no longer fall back on the “it’s illegal” go-to? 

Personally, I feel most successful in these tricky talks when I have a good understanding of the issues and can talk to my kids in an open manner about the facts.  If I can remove any personal bias from the discussion, my kids seem to respond well and engage.  THANKFULLY, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment’s (CDPHE) Good To Know Colorado campaign, has developed some tools, tips and resources for parents, teachers, coaches, mentors and other trusted adults facing these discussions.  

Resources for Talking to Kids about Retail Marijuana

You can find all the tips and resources at www.GoodtoKnowColorado.com/talk. Tips include:

  • How to talk to youth 13 to 16
  • How to talk to youth  17 to 20
  • Health risks of smoking pot underage
  • Legal consequences
  • Marijuana 101 with all the slang words so we can interpret what the kids are saying and texting (I am SO uncool – definitely need this one!)

For my kids, sharing the health impacts of marijuana is likely the best way to get their attention.  They simply aren’t mature enough to understand the impact of legal consequences on their life choices just yet.  I am, and it scares me to no end – definitely do NOT want my kids making foolish choices now that cost them opportunities later.  But for them, sharing some of the health impacts – similar to how I’ve talked to them about cigarettes their whole lives – is probably the way to go.  For example:

  • Athletic performance - Marijuana has a similar impact as cigarettes regarding reduced lung function, reduced muscular performance, and also coordination.
  • Learning and Memory - Kids who use marijuana regularly are more likely to have a harder time learning, memory issues, and lower grades.   Plus the effects can last a couple of weeks after smoking, not just while they’re high. 
  • Potential -Brain development continues until age 25.  
  • Judgment – Kids who are using retail marijuana may be more likely to drink, make risky choices, or do other drugs.
  • Addictive - Marijuana is habitually addictive.  

So, armed with some information from Good to Know Colorado and a bit more confidence on how to proceed, I’ll be adding this topic to my family talks in the VERY near future.  Will you be broaching this subject with your kids? 

Parenting Tips:

We may not have been handed the answer key or a  parenting manual when our kids were born, but together we have tons of experience and ideas.  Let’s help each other navigate through successfully by sharing your wins and worries so we can all learn.

Have you had these talks with your kids? If so, how did it go? How often do you discuss it? Any tips from the trenches? Parenting lessons learned?

If not, what would help you feel ready? What worries are making you hesitate to bring it up?


4 Responses to Teens and Pot: Parenting with Legalized Marijuana

  1. Some great tips! I’ll give a slightly different perspective…our family is perhaps more liberal with regards to legal retail marijuana. There are adults in our circle who openly use it and a few who make a (very good) living in that industry.
    My parenting philosophy is this:
    I stress that is IS illegal. For them, right now. Frankly when they are 21 I don’t see a bit of difference between a social cocktail at happy hour and an after-work toke.
    Also, I am very careful of my language and example around alcohol. Since pot is now regulated similarly to booze, I try very consciously not to let my kids hear me say/post things like “today sucked–I need a drink” because they need to learn healthy coping mechanisms that aren’t substance related. They look to me for that example.
    I also remind them that many employers and certainly the Air Force (my eldest daughter’s dream college) will drug test and will rescind an offer for a positive test.

    Since we do have many loved ones who use it (including a child my daughter babysits, who uses it medically for seizures) I don’t care to hear passing judgement or condemnation coming from my kids. They can say “no thanks, not for me” for example but I try to get away from the “that’s gross! You’re dumb (loser, etc.) if you use it!” Just Say No rhetoric that we grew up with.

  2. I’m in CA now but happy you posted about this because we were just discussing this the other night. Our state is likely to legalize during this election cycle. In some ways the discussion is similar to that surrounding alcohol and drugs. The pitfalls and dangers are similar yet there is a perception that it is harmless. Thankfully we’ve been open with all three kids for a very long time but I’m not stupid, the conversations need to continue!

    • I definitely think it’s not as harmful as many other things out there, but as Emily pointed out it IS still illegal if under 21 and has impacts definitely worth discussing with kids. I personally hope more states legalize it and start managing it.

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