My son may be young, but the boy has some big goals. As of this morning, he’d like to be a professional tennis player, own a food truck, and manage a construction company. Along with his lofty career goals comes a whole lot of strength, and a fierce, independent will of his own. Our daughter, though only 8 months, is also exuding the kind of independence that both makes a parent proud and a little nervous. She knows what she wants, when she wants it. When she started crawling and pulling to standing at less than 7 months, we knew this little one would be tough to contain. Parenting these strong-willed children mostly consists of answering lots of questions, trying to keep them from breaking someone or something, and guiding them to be kind and respectful of themselves and others.
Raising children in a society where retail marijuana is now more accessible than ever, and messaging from movies and music often glorifies its use, I know we’re going to have to start having conversations about what is and is not acceptable, early. I want my children to be informed about the possible effects of marijuana on developing brains and bodies, I want them to know how their father and I feel about underage retail marijuana use, and I want them to know how use could impact their ability to achieve their goals, regardless of what those goals become. Thankfully, I have a strategy.
- Begin the Conversation Early: Children are little sponges! Nothing gets past them, and they ask questions about EVERYTHING. Because we don’t keep secrets in our house, we answer all questions, as best and as age appropriately as we can. Our son has seen people smoking cigarettes and asked about them before, which prompted a long discussion about cigarettes not being for children and being very unhealthy for adults. We even talked about how people can die from using them. We plan on initiating a discussion about marijuana much the same way. Since many children try marijuana for the first time before the age of 15, we don’t want our children to be presented with it before we’ve had the chance to talk about it with them.
- Build Trust and Always Listen: Because my son is young, his understanding of reality can be a little shaky. So, when he comes into the living room and announces he cannot sleep because there is a giraffe in his room, I don’t accuse him of lying. Rather I ask diplomatic questions to help him determine whether that giraffe is actually in his room, or if he imagined it. I also then stress that I will always believe him, but may ask questions to be sure I totally understand him. Their father and I hope that this strategy will help us build strong and trusting relationships with our children. We hope that listening to them and trusting them now will help make them feel comfortable talking to us about more difficult things like marijuana use in the future.
- Establish Clear Rules: We have rules in our house, and our children don’t always like them and sometimes try to bend or break those rules. When we teach rules, we also clearly communicate what the consequences are for disobeying. We also tell them why we have the rules we do, so they clearly understand the reason for the rule rather than being subject to a parenting dictatorship. Underage marijuana use will not be allowed in our home by our children or their friends. They will know this rule and be acutely aware of the consequences for breaking the rule. We will also be sure they know about any rules their extracurricular activities have surrounding marijuana use. For example, many schools have a zero-tolerance policy where student athletes will be suspended or removed from a team for underage use of marijuana.
- Promote Confidence and Achievement: We want to encourage our children to pursue their passions, hobbies, dreams, and goals that lead them toward successful and happy lives. Whether our children want to be artists, athletes, drive tractors, or travel the world, we will be excited about goals that are healthy for them. We will be there for them, right alongside, encouraging them all the way. We will teach them to succeed with humility, to fail with grace, and to celebrate. We are committed to doing our best to help them protect their futures, so we will also teach them that marijuana can get in the way of their academic, athletic, and career opportunities. We will tell them about the effects marijuana has on athletic performance, brain development, learning and memory, so they know that underage marijuana use does not fit into their achievement plans.
- Be Consistent: I’ll be honest, I HATE when we must take away privileges when our children misbehave. I want them to get to play outside, to enjoy ice cream and to get to go swimming with friends, but I know that for them to trust us and follow our rules, we must be consistent. By following through on enforcing the little rules, our children will know we’re serious about the big rules and will feel more secure operating within the bounds of acceptable behavior. I will be consistent with rules and discipline, so my children learn from me and don’t have to learn the hard way through lost opportunities or legal troubles.
Like most people, I love my children with every fiber of my being. I want the best in life for them. So, it’s my responsibility to make sure that I am equipping them to succeed, and part of that includes doing everything I can to keep them from using retail marijuana underage. I want to protect them from the legal, athletic, financial, and employment consequences they could face if they use marijuana before they are 21.
For more information about talking to your kids about not using marijuana before age 21, please visit www.GoodToKnowColorado.com/talk