Talking pot with your kids

Published on January 8, 2019 by Jenny Neufeld

Talking to your kids about cannabis feels like one of those milestone conversations, right up there with the one about the birds and the bees.

The topic of cannabis can certainly seem daunting and uncomfortable, but it’s an important one and I want to offer you my thoughts about how to make it a little easier on you, and the young person you’re speaking with.

I believe the best place to start this whole process is actually with yourself. Before you open up this conversation with your kids, you need to have this conversation with yourself. Ask yourself how you feel about cannabis and its use, find answers to your own questions about the industry, the products, the paraphernalia, and anything else that crosses your mind or piques your interest.

As for my own experience with cannabis – or lack thereof – I was one of those rare people in B.C. who didn’t at least try pot in high school. In fact, I didn’t have my first hit until I was in my mid-twenties. I truthfully didn’t know much about it beyond the ‘Just Say No’ campaigns. I’ve done a lot of learning since legalization and getting involved in the oz.

Kids are smart, so having confidence in your opinions and knowledge to back them up is valuable, as they will always find weaknesses and loopholes.

Laying a good foundation for these conversations is another great place to start. I laid the groundwork for these types of conversations when my children were younger by teaching them that it is important to care for their bodies by using good hygiene practices and getting enough physical activity and sleep each day, and most importantly that what they put into their bodies has an effect as well.

When they were younger that meant teaching them about healthy, balanced eating, but as they have begun to get older more topics open up.

After your foundation has been laid I think that you can continue to build on it either in small increments, especially if you have started this with young ones, or go for the traditionally depicted major sit down and lay it all out there if your kids are older. I would suggest doing whatever you are most comfortable with. I personally prefer having small pieces of conversation here and there, but you may just want to rip that Band-Aid right off all at once.

In any case, I would recommend ensuring that the atmosphere is relaxed and the tone is conversational, not going into this tense and ready with a lecture. Engage your child in a way you know they connect with – as their parent, you know them better than anyone, appeal to what makes them tick.

The government does suggest that you are open about your approach discussing cannabis and give balanced information about what it is and how it affects you, which I think is sound advice (who knew the government could get it right sometimes). They have some great resources that would work as a great jumping off point for your personal research or even to offer to your kids if they want to be a little more hands on themselves.

A toolkit

Health Canada has put together a great toolkit for talking to kids about cannabis.

It’s has sample scripts, cannabis 101, and a list of changes parents should watch out for in their children.

They say parents who provide their kids with balanced information about the effects associated with cannabis (pot, weed, marijuana, herb, ganja, or whatever you call it) can help them make informed decisions.

“It’s more important than ever for parents to address this issue early and often – to help prevent underage use and protect their kids’ health and development,” says the intro.

“It’s important to understand that expressing curiosity does not always result in experimentation. It’s natural for youth to feel curious and have questions about cannabis use.”

They also hope to spark a discussion on cannabis products that will become legal in fall 2019; including edibles like cannabis-infused foods or beverages and concentrates such as hashish or hash oil, waxes or shatter.

“You’ll learn how to set the stage to have an open dialogue with your pre-teen or teen. Your kids are likely asking you some tough questions and challenging you on the topic of cannabis. We’ve worked with top experts in health and parenting to help you talk with your teen.”

Tips for ‘The Talk’

  1. Be calm and relaxed. If you approach your teen with anger or panic, it will make it harder to achieve your goals. If you are anxious about having a conversation with her or him, find some things to do that will help relax you (take a walk, call a friend, meditate).
  2. Be positive. If you approach the situation with shame, anger, scare tactics or disappointment your efforts will be counter-productive. Instead, be attentive, curious, respectful and understanding.
  3. Don’t lecture – Engage. A lecture can cause your teen to shut down, get angry or tune you out. Any language with a negative focus, like disapproval or shaming, can be perceived as a scare tactic. Engaging your teen in a calm, respectful dialogue that takes into consideration their point of view will be more effective and have a positive effect on future discussions.
  4. Find a comfortable setting. Announcing a sit-down meeting (“We need to have a talk after dinner”) will usually be met with resistance, while a more spontaneous, casual approach will lower her anxiety and maybe even your own. Perhaps this means taking a walk with her or sitting in the yard or park. Look for a place that feels less confined but not too distracting.
  5. Be aware of body language. If your teen is sitting, you want to be sitting as well. If he or she is standing, ask them to sit down with you. Be mindful of finger-pointing and crossed arms; these are closed gestures, while uncrossed legs and a relaxed posture are open gestures.

Don’t be this guy…