If there’s one thing legalization is bound to do, it will make having the conversation about cannabis with your kids a lot easier. Whether you’re discussing your own use of cannabis for medical, recreational or wellness purposes, or you are looking to provide guidance and influence their decisions around cannabis, it’s important to establish an open dialogue free from judgment.
Most of us grew up in a world where we were told that cannabis is bad; that it’s a gateway to using other drugs, and that it has no medicinal value. Despite the prevalence of these ideas over the last near-100 years of prohibition, kids are likely more attuned to cannabis’s growing role in society.
Unlike the days of D.A.R.E lectures during weekly health class, kids today have a digital world of information at their fingertips, where they are able to access fact-based educational sources that have slowly increased recently as a result of U.S. state legalizations, and Canada’s impending federal legalization. As we move away from the myths perpetuated by prohibition, kids know that the conversation around cannabis is changing.
Your children may already be aware of the fact that cannabis is said to have a multitude of benefits. They’ve likely already seen the many of Facebook videos showing the ability of cannabis to subdue even the most violent treatment-resistant fits of epilepsy. They may have read about the ways in which medical cannabis is helping chronic pain patients reduce their use of opioids against the backdrop of the North American opioid crisis. They are also possibly aware of the potential of cannabis to significantly improve someone’s quality life — a fact that is in direct competition with the myths older generations grew up with.
While your kids may know more about cannabis today than you do, they still need guidance from their guardians and mentors. The risks associated with cannabis use are real, and require serious consideration.
As you venture into this new world of cannabis conversation, here are a few tips to help you engage in meaningful and impactful dialogue with your family.
No one likes to be lectured, so having a real conversation about what’s going on — without judgment — can go a long way to having a good relationship with your kids when it comes to cannabis.
Rather than flooding their brains with infinite “don’t’s”, take the opportunity to understand their genuine thoughts and feelings on the subject. Speaking with your kids in an honest way can help build trust and will certainly open up a space for fact-based discussions around the benefits and risks of cannabis.
As kids enter into young adulthood, they are driven by a desire to be autonomous decision makers, and what a better way to support them on their journey than with evidence-based discussions of the facts with which they can make the right decisions for them. Youth aged 15-24 have the highest prevalence of reported cannabis use, according to the Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction, making them the biggest demographic in need of fact-based education as Canada prepares to legalize adult recreational use of cannabis this year.
Take this opportunity to learn together.
Talking to your kids about cannabis doesn’t have to be scary. It can be an empowering process in which you explore and learn together. Since it’s possible that your kids may know more than you do at this point, it’s important that the information you provide to them is factual. Part of your job as a parent is to educate yourself as well. This also means admitting when you don’t know something. As a parent, this can be difficult, but it can also be a wonderful opportunity to make discoveries together. Rather than shying away from difficult topics, you can seize the opportunity to expand your cannabis knowledge while simultaneously preparing your kids with the tools they need to be protected.
Despite the multitude of potential beneficial health effects, there are serious health risks associated cannabis use. Smoking comes with a plethora of negative side-effects. Additionally, although revealing no causal link, research shows that cannabis has the potential to trigger certain mental health conditions such as schizophrenia in individuals already pre-disposed to it.
Engaging in open and honest dialogue about both the benefits and risks around cannabis will position you as a respected voice of authority on the topic. An additional benefit to having these kinds of discussions with your kids is also the ability to guide the conversation towards the “why” behind cannabis use.
Cannabis consumption is here to stay, and cautionary tales are being tempered with studies speaking to the positive role cannabis can play in someone’s life. There are real, concrete risks to cannabis use, especially for the developing brain, so it’s important that any conversation around this plant includes an authentic and genuine examination about the realities of legalization.
Story by Ljubica Kostovic
Illustration by Elena Boils
The preceding is for informational purposes only. It is not meant to condone the use or consumption of cannabis. For more information, please refer to our disclaimer.