Four Strategies To Get The Conversation Started
You might be wondering why it is important to start talking to your children at an early age about the risks associated with adolescent marijuana use. Most experts agree that education about issues like alcohol and drug use is most effective if it begins at least two years before the child is likely to be exposed to the behavior in a peer setting. Let’s face it, 10-year-old kids already have unprecedented access to information, so it is critical that parents start these important conversations early to help children navigate this complex subject. Having these conversations with youth and providing them with facts and science-based information are the most impactful ways to help them understand the importance of putting off marijuana use until their brain is fully developed. If you have an older teen and you have not yet discussed adolescent marijuana use with him or her, it’s never too late to start. Here are some important tips to keep in mind.
1. Shifting from YOUR reality to THEIRS: As parents, sometimes we don’t know with certainty what our children are hearing, seeing, or thinking in regard to adolescent marijuana use, but it is important to understand that their reality and perception are likely different from ours. In 2015 and 2016, school resource officers (SROs) and school counselors participated in surveys concerning marijuana in schools that asked them to comment on and share their in-school experiences. Below are some of their comments that shed light on youth mind-sets and experiences regarding marijuana.
In June 2016, 103 school resource officers (SRO) participated in a survey concerning marijuana in schools. Below are comments from the SROs.
Middle School Users: “On several occasions students have shown up to school
obviously high on marijuana. When asked where they obtained the drug itʹs 50‐50 parents or friends. I have seen this at the 6th grade level, but mostly 8th grade level. Hardest part telling kids that marijuana usage at an early age is detrimental to brain growth, but some tell me that my mom and dad say itʹs ok.”
Medical_Marijuana_Diversion: “In April 2016 three students were in parking lot of school smoking marijuana. One student recently turned 18 and shortly after, obtained medical MJ card. That student was sharing with the other two. Student contacted with MJ at Prom. Had recently turned 18 and then got medical MJ card. That led to discovery of possession of alcohol. January 2016 sophomore student found near campus selling marijuana to other students. Suspended by school, court gave Diversion.”
In August 2015, 188 school counselors participated in a survey concerning the legalization of marijuana in schools. Below are comments from school counselors:”
“12 yr. old, sixth grader, was suspected of coming to summer school high. When confronted he told the teacher that he smoked it at home the night before but denied being high at the time. Later, he confirmed that he had smoked early that morning. The marijuana came from his mother’s stash.”
“3 or 4 times in the last school year, students have come to school under the
influence after meeting at homes where parents were absent, sharing marijuana
off campus and then bringing it on campus. 7th and 8th grade students have been involved, and most often their reaction when caught is ‘it’s legal.’”
“I met with at least 5 students last year alone that have been showing significant
signs of marijuana use or were caught and they all said they will not stop using weed
on a daily basis. Their justification was it’s fine because it’s legal. If it’s legal it’s not as bad as what adults say about the risks.”
2. Changing the dialogue: The comments and experiences above provide insight into youth perceptions and experiences with marijuana. These stories also detail why the dialogue around adolescent marijuana use must be changed. Marijuana laws and views are changing; therefore, so must the conversation. Most parents grew up during a time when marijuana was illegal, and many of us are products of the D.A.R.E. program (Drug Abuse Resistance Program). In recent years numerous studies have reported the ineffectiveness of “Just Say No” program and more and more schools are moving away from “Just Say No” approaches in favor of reality-based education. It is important that parents have these same reality-based conversations with their children.
3. Starting the Conversation: Dispel the myths around adolescent marijuana use. Provide solid, research-based information about the effects of marijuana use on the still developing adolescent brain. Because of the legalization of marijuana in many parts of the country there has been a significant reduction in adolescent perception of harm regarding the dangers of adolescent marijuana use. Ask your child what their beliefs are about the effects of prolonged marijuana use, and take that opportunity to share the facts with them. In the “Parent’s” section of our website we have a free Parent Guide that will help you with this conversation.
4. Lock It Up: As previously mentioned, laws and views of marijuana are changing. More and more states are legalizing marijuana for medicinal or recreational use, or both. If you keep marijuana in your home, it is important that you keep your product locked up just as you would your prescription medications. Make sure your marijuana is stored safely to prevent experimentation or accidental ingestion. Numerous discrete, locking and odor-absorbing boxes can be purchased online. Check out Stash Logix at https://www.stashlogix.com/ for more information
After working as a criminal and family law paralegal for many years, Sarah decided to follow her passion and pursue a career in education. She returned to college and earned a BA in education with an endorsement in K–12 special education. Sarah later earned additional endorsements in language arts and health. She has worked with special education students in middle school and high school and worked as a general education language arts and health teacher at an alternative high school. Her work at the alternative education campus led Sarah to co-found the Marijuana Education Initiative with Molly Lotz. Together, she and Molly work with specialists and professionals in diverse fields to create unbiased, reality-based marijuana prevention and intervention curricula as well as alternative-to-suspension programming, parent information guides, and online learning modules. Sarah couples her experience in the classroom with her knowledge in youth-specific marijuana prevention efforts to successfully work with educators, communities, legislators, state agencies, and industry leaders across the country to ensure educational practices keep pace with changing norms.