When our kids were little, we used to hold their hands when crossing the street in order to keep them safe. As they’ve grown, we’ve asked them to wear helmets when riding bikes and scooters, approve social media friend requests from those they know, and nervously sat in the passenger seat while teaching them how to drive. We’ve served as their first teachers, imparting wisdom and knowledge in hopes they will stay safe and make healthy decisions.
Not all of the conversations we’ve had with our children have been easy. We’ve answered questions they’ve posed out of curiosity, had moments where they’ve tested us, and experienced honest conversations we hope will guide them to make good decisions in tough situations.
These days our kids are exposed to many risks — from online predators to alcohol and marijuana. As parents, it’s our job to arm our kids with the knowledge and skills they need to make healthy decisions by opening lines of communication and starting conversations.
But how do you talk about marijuana with your kids?
As a parent and a middle school teacher, I know tweens are trying cannabis. I’ve heard stories from my two teens about marijuana. They hear about it from other high schoolers and smell the smoke in public areas. I’ve smelled it in my own school’s hallways when stepping outside my computer lab.
In 2019, nearly 12 percent of 8th grade students report using marijuana in the past year and almost seven percent used marijuana in the past 30-days. (Monitoring the Future, 2019)
Cannabis is out there, and we can’t ignore it just because it may feel like an uncomfortable conversation. It doesn’t have to be tough!
How to Talk About Marijuana with Your Kids
It does our kids a big disservice to avoid this topic but if you’re looking for ways to talk about marijuana with your kids, Ask, Listen, Learn has resources to help.
For years Ask, Listen, Learn has been a trusted provider of resources for parents, teachers, and counselors that educate our nation’s youth about healthy behaviors and saying “NO” to underage drinking. Their alcohol and the brain videos teach how underage drinking affects different parts of your brain and the harm that can be done to growing bodies.
While their mission to keep kids alcohol-free is still at the forefront, their new free cannabis resources help parents make conversations about this difficult topic easier. Here are some tips on how to talk about marijuana with your kids and resources from Ask, Listen, Learn that can help.
Let Them Talk
Curiosity about marijuana can start by catching a whiff of smoke in a public place or overhearing a conversation between friends. It’s always best to be honest with your kids but instead of leading the conversation, just listen.
Sometimes our minds go to really dark places when our kids bring up scary subjects but often they ask because they trust us and need to know more.
Make Sure the Conversation is Age Appropriate
Phyllis Fagell, school counselor and author of Middle School Matters, says:
“The best way to reach a young adolescent is to honor their intellect, treat them as the expert in their own life, avoid lecturing, focus on developing their critical-thinking skills, and give them age-appropriate, factual information.”
The materials from Ask, Listen, Learn do just that.
Free resources cover everything from the risks associated with youth use, to how cannabis affects a tween’s developing brain, body and behavior, to the basics of the endocannabinoid system. It gives kids the tools they need to draw their own conclusions and make smart, healthy decisions— now and down the road.
Provide Them with Facts
By providing facts and knowledge about how marijuana affects the developing brain, we hope our kids will make good decisions. Rather than spout off statistics, Ask, Listen, Learn has factual videos and printables that are perfect for educating curious tweens.
The How Marijuana Affects Your Developing Brain video can be used to follow up with questions they pose or to kick off your conversation.
These free printable vocabulary cards can be downloaded to help them understand the words they’re hearing. Vocabulary cards feature 16 definitions that include marijuana, cannabis, THC, CBD, vaporizer, endocannabinoid, endocannabinoid system, and more.
Knowing vocabulary and definitions of words can foster a better understanding of marijuana and common words and abbreviations associated with it. Vocabulary cards can also be used as flash cards!
Rely on Your Village
There are times when we talk that our kids simply stop listening. Engage your village to help you continue having important conversations about risky behavior. Use fellow parents in your neighborhood, teachers, your family pediatrician, grandparents, and other relatives to help you raise responsible teens.
Share this letter to parents from a school counselor with those in your village to make sure everyone is on the same page.
Get Expert Advice
If you’re still feeling uncomfortable, these videos from Ask, Listen Learn provide perspectives from trusted experts.
In this video, pediatric emergency room doctor, Katie Friedman, discusses how parents should talk to their kids about alcohol, and other risky behaviors such as underage cannabis use. She opens up about brain science and how conversations with kids should be seen as teachable moments in the ongoing effort to keep kids substance-free.
American School Counselor Association (ASCA) 2019 School Counselor of the Year, Brian Coleman, discusses how parents should talk to their kids. He discusses the role of an educator in these discussions and how parents, counselors, and teachers can work together to start conversations to keep kids substance-free.
Just Because They’re Curious, Doesn’t Mean They’ll Try it
Just because your kids are curious about cannabis doesn’t mean they’ll try it. Kids often ask questions about the things in their worlds to sort out good from bad so they can make better decisions. In fact, a 2019 study found 62.3% of 8th graders disapprove of their peers trying marijuana. 76.7% disapprove of them smoking marijuana regularly.
For more tips on how to talk to your kids about marijuana, visit Ask, Listen, Learn.
I work as an Educational Programs Consultant for Responsibility.org and am a member of their Educational Advisory Board.