Practical Advice for Parents About Marijuana and Kids
If your child is showing these signs:
- Continuing lethargy
- Sudden and violent mood swings
- Evasive behavior – they will not let you meet their friends, they give vague information when asked about where they are going, or they outright lie to you about it
- Reckless or manipulative behavior
If you have noticed these indicators:
- Lighters or matches where you did not expect them to be
- A sudden fondness for incense or their room smelling like air freshener
- Little things going missing around the house
- Less interest in hygiene
- Eye drop usage
- Slurred speech
Or you know for a fact that your child is using marijuana, you may be wondering what to do next.
Take the time to do the research. Find out why most kids use marijuana. Find out if your child is using marijuana out of curiosity, to fit in with their friends, or if there is an underlying issue in their lives that are trying to escape from or ignore.
If you feel you are out of your depth, even before you begin the conversation, talk to someone who knows. Talk to a teacher or guidance counselor at their school. Talk to a professional counselor.
In other words, arm yourself. You are going into battle for your child and you need to be ready.
Talk to Them
The first step is always to open the gates of communication. The research indicates that parents have a much higher influence on their children than they realize.
Sit down with them and tell them how you feel. If they are high, wait until the effects have worn off so you can have a more meaningful discussion. Say, “I’m worried because…” or “I’m afraid because…” Then give your child an opportunity to express their own feelings. Make sure they know you are really listening. And allow them time to think things through before speaking.
Stick to the basic rules of communication:
- Be a good listener. Avoid the temptation to shower them with wisdom, and let them do at least half of the talking.
- Acknowledge their point of view. This does not mean you have to agree with what they say, but instead, to try not to react in a way that will shut down their desire to tell you how they think and feel about things.
- Use open-ended questions that encourage reflection and the expression of feelings and views rather than simple yes/no answers.
- Open-ended versus closed questions
- “How do you feel about…?”
Not “Doesn’t that make you feel…?”
- “Why do you think…?”
Not “Don’t you realize that…?”
- “What worries you about…?”
Not “Don’t you think…is a problem?”
- Be clear about your expectation. Being honest about how you think or feel about marijuana use, and why you think or feel that way, can offer a broader perspective to your discussion.
- Keep them from tuning out. Avoid “lecture mode” and judgmental comments, and keep in mind that exaggerating the negative aspects of marijuana or any drug will not work for a child who has witnessed or experienced its positive effects.
Present them with the facts
Make this section short and to the point. You may be dealing with a child who is embarrassed or angry that they have been caught or a child who just wants to tune you out and make “this” all go away.
- Marijuana is considered an illegal drug. Office of National Drug Control Polity
- A marijuana conviction WILL limit your ability to get into college, travel, and even impact future job opportunities.
- Breathing problems – coughing, asthma, lung disorders
- Increased heart rate
- Altered senses – seeing brighter colors, losing track of time passing
- Impaired memory
- Links to schizophrenia
Give them Limits
Now that you have told them you know, and some of the dangers present in marijuana use and abuse, set (or reinforce) the house rules.
- Be very specific and clear with your child that you do not want them to use drugs or associate with peers who use drugs.
- Punish your child’s association with these drug-using peers by taking away their privileges contingently and positively reward association with peers who you do not believe are using drugs or alcohol (i.e., access to privileges).
- If you caught them smoking with friends, contact the parents of their friends and let them know that you found your child and their friends smoking pot in your house and as punishment you are limiting your child’s contact with their child (a minimum of one week, however, if you catch them again you may have to mandate no contact at all). Association with drug using peers is the number one predictor of adolescent drug use.
Contacting the parents of your child’s friends can be helpful in several ways: (1) it sends a clear message to your child’s friends and their parents that you are serious about your child not using drugs, (2) it often leads to other parents punishing their children, (3) it provides a useful model for other parents on what to do if they were in a similar bind, (4) it elicits help from others in keeping an eye on your child (it does “Take a Village to Raise a Child”), and (5) it may serve to embarrass your child, which is a powerful motivator for most adolescents.
- If you have a close bond with your teen, it can be very powerful to make them understand that they have to regain your trust through mandatory supervision. In this approach, you would not allow your child to be home alone without adult supervision (which may inconvenience them) and requiring an early curfew. However, as your teen shows you they are doing what they are supposed to do again – from homework to chores — you can begin extending curfew and increasing the amount of time they are without “close” adult supervision (but you must continue to check on their whereabouts and peer associations).
- Pay attention to your child’s efforts to act responsibly. Because exclusive use of punishment has the untoward effect of undermining the emotional bond (not to mention increased anger, resentment, and “sneakiness”) you must set up opportunities to catch your child being good.
Suggestions are from: If You Catch Your Teen Smoking Pot
Get them help
If needed, get them the professional help they deserve. In a previous post here: Addressing Marijuana Abuse In Your Teen , we listed several rehab centers and specific questions to ask professionals at these centers. Go and take a look.
You have had “the talk”. You have made the rules, or made them apparent. You have seen some response from your child. Now take a deep breath. Sit down. and follow up with them.
- Assure them that you know they are trying.
- Find out where they are having troubles
- Find out where they are having victories
- Listen to them
Do this on a regular basis, and not only will you be able to keep your home marijuana free, you will evolve into a deeper, richer, and more rewarding relationship with your child than you ever thought was possible.
Do not forget to make sure that YOU get the help and assistance you need. Join a mothers group. Join an online support group. Find professional help for yourself if that is the best option. Keeping yourself clear-headed, ready and able to tackle problems like this can be difficult and there is no shame, only strength, in asking for help.