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9 Parent Tips for Talking About Marijuana with Your Teen

With the legalization of marijuana in many states — our children might be getting mixed messages on the risks, impact and dangers.

1. Discuss How Laws are Different for Young People

Similar to alcohol laws, marijuana laws differ between adults and children. Recreational use laws apply to adults 21+ with medicinal use laws typically applying to adults 18+. If using, buying or possessing marijuana while underage, there can be serious consequences with a possible criminal record, fines or disciplinary action at school.

2. Set Clear Expectations

Have agreed-upon expectations and an understanding that it is not okay for children to use marijuana. We need to reinforce that even in a state with legal use — that does not apply for those underage.

3. Teach About the Unique Dangers to Young

Young people don’t often think about the impact of marijuana on their developing brains. Marijuana not only makes it harder to think clearly, learn and solve problems effectively, but regular use can cause lasting changes to the brain. 1 in 6 teens who use marijuana become addicted and the younger they start the greater the likelihood of addiction. Marijuana use is also linked to depression, anxiety, paranoia, school drop-outs and lower test scores.

4. Discuss Other Health Effects

Marijuana smoke contains toxic chemicals that impact not only those smoking, but those around the smoker. There is a misconception that hookah or vaporizers eliminate these risks. The dangers of street drugs are real as you don’t often know what you are truly buying. It could be laced with other drugs or have an unexpected intensity. Edibles made with marijuana can also lead to dangerous impacts. Studies have shown that people who smoke marijuana are more likely to become addicted to alcohol or other drugs.

5. Talk About Safety Risks

Driving under the influence of marijuana creates increased risk of injury with the decrease in reaction times, and impaired coordination and judgment. Remind your child to always call you or find a safe ride home if someone is under the influence.

6. Encourage Questions

Create an environment where your child can trust you to be a source to answer questions about things they are hearing in school or the media.

7. Be Honest About Your Own Use

If your child asks, be honest and provide context. Reinforce your decisions were made before you understood the risks and with a reminder that marijuana is dramatically stronger today. If you are using now, don’t smoke in front of your children, secure its access and never drive when under the influence.

8. Stay Informed

Marijuana research and laws are changing. Keep up-to-date so you can communicate and support your child.

9. Keep the Conversation Going

Your child will continually be faced with making decisions about marijuana use so make sure you support their growth and good choices with ongoing dialogue. Find teachable moments based on news stories, consequences of bad choices and new developments. Serving as your child’s guide and trusted advisor will be invaluable for their safety and best health.