In the words of Bob Dylan, the times they are a-changing, and parenting is like trying to build IKEA furniture without instructions. For many, the way we had cannabis explained to us growing up isn’t the same way we’d approach it with our kids now. I’m sure plenty of Satanic-panic era parents probably remember the fire and brimstone and “weed is a gateway to hard drugs” D.A.R.E-esque evangelism. Still, explaining cannabis to kids can be a tough conversation, and we want to approach it without lying or coming across hypocritical.
Fortunately for me, my family were low-key smokers, meaning they didn’t exactly hide it, but they didn’t advertise the fact they smoked more than one kind of cigarette. I thought the plants in the greenhouse were tomato plants — even though it was always odd how we never had any tomatoes.
They didn’t scare us with over-the-top speeches about drugs are bad, but my family talk was very frank, honest and direct. At 14 in 2002, I watched The Simpson’s and saw Homer Simpson get stoned. I remember asking if that was what it was really like — if pot makes you see things. My Mom laughed and explained that no, it really wasn’t, and for a kid, well, it just didn’t seem as interesting to me anymore.
Explaining cannabis to kids starts small
I’m a mother of four, my oldest is ten years old, and I have been percolating how to have “the drug” conversation with her. When it comes to parenting, I’ve always been out in the proverbial weeds. We’ve had many small talks about drugs and what they are, and for me, that is a big thing. Drug conversations aren’t “one and done” kinds of things. They are a collection of many little conversations that always add to the big picture. For our family, we have always approached the conversation from a scientific point of view.
Cannabis alters your mind and mental state, like most/all drugs. Caffeine itself is a drug that many people enjoy in controlled amounts. That doesn’t mean a child, preteen, or teen should be using it at all or in excess. I opened with this example for my kids, further expanding it to cannabis. Cannabis is a medicine that Mom uses for pain and anxiety, just like Mom uses caffeine to wake up in the morning, just like Papa needs insulin for his diabetes. It should never be a crutch, but an aid to get through a long day feeling good, pain-free and awake.
It’s so important to note that this kind of conversation can be relationship-changing. To tell your kids that something is evil, immoral or wrong for whatever reason and then have them find out you smoke is a huge betrayal and paints you as a hypocrite in their eyes. This can be one of the first major conversations that shape your child’s life and is a huge parenting hurdle.
Legal cannabis is a win for parenting
Thankfully, making cannabis legal gave parents both a major win and loophole. It opens us to an easier conversation of how cannabis — like cigarettes or alcohol — is best left to adults due to brain maturity. Similar to how presenting kids with the information regarding safe sex, teaching kids information regarding drugs is — in my opinion — key to keeping them safe and allowing them to make their own educated decisions.
Now that cannabis is legal in Canada, we are fortunate enough to have a chance to change the stigma surrounding cannabis. Having these conversations with our kids where we are open, honest and straightforward makes sure the times keep a-changing.
One parent can never tell another exactly how to do something. Everything is different from child to child, parent to parent and family to family. If you have any tips, tricks or stories to share about this, please come over to Cannabis Life Network on Instagram or ColdLipstick and let us know in the comments!