Talking About Cannabis With Your Children
By Angela Hashim
Approaching the cannabis conversation with kids can feel daunting. Even rational adults have such wide-ranging reactions, so who can guess how kids will react if you tell them you use it?
Parents that drink alcohol can choose from a range of social examples to frame their conversation and can even joke its use. But the norms surrounding cannabis are changing so quickly that our conversations haven’t necessarily caught up, and the topic can feel heavy.
So, whether you’re already using or you plan to use, what should you do? Don’t avoid talking to your kids about cannabis. Just like the conversations you have with kids about sex and alcohol, “the sooner the better”, would be a good option.
This is especially important if you think you might consume cannabis in front of them—the same way you might drink a beer while the kids play in the backyard. If they see you doing something, of course they’re going to ask ‘What is that?’” The conversation will look different depending on your child’s age, but the point is, don’t avoid the conversation. You don’t drink alcohol in secret or avoid talking to your kids about it, so don’t do that with cannabis either.
It’s a big cultural shift going from hush-hush to corner store, and it’s OK to approach it cautiously. There’s no need to bombard kids with information. We’re setting an example for our kids of how we want them to proceed as they grow up, so go slowly and be thoughtful when you’re talking to your kids.
When in doubt, consider how you would answer their questions about alcohol. If they ask what it is, you can say that it’s something for grown-ups and that they can decide when they’re grown up if they want to have any.
If your kids are old enough that they’re already aware of cannabis (although they probably know it as marijuana or weed), then they might be shocked to know that their parents are “doing drugs.” This is where it will help for you to have a solid understanding of the safety, benefits and drawbacks of cannabis and how it differs from drugs, both legal and illegal. It’s best to describe cannabis as a natural plant and the federal government has classified it was a “drug”, but your physician does not agree, he has taught you that it has far reaching medical benefits that help people on many levels.
Curious kids might even like to be taught the reasons why cannabis was banned and why the government has changed its policy.
Cannabis is objectively safer than alcohol— it’s impossible to die from taking too much cannabis – advocates often avoid comparing the plant with alcohol, but from a recreational perspective, many of the lessons we preach about alcohol are transferable, particularly that it is a substance for grown-ups best enjoyed in moderation and under the care of a physician.
Even though there’s the newer and very important conversation happening around the healthy benefits of cannabis and the idea that it can be used as medicine, I think it’s still an important conversation to have with your kids that too much of anything, even if it’s a good thing, can be detrimental. You want to give kids the good and the bad. Focus on why we use it and what it’s for. Parents should neither hide nor glamorize their consumption—this has been agreed on by parenting coaches and cannabis experts. Experts also agree that cannabis is not addictive and it does in fact have medicinal value.
Do yourself a favor and educate yourself on cannabis, knowledge is key. Share that knowledge with your kids. If you feel uncertain explaining the scientific/medical stuff, you can schedule an appointment with Dr. Hashim so that he can sit down with you and your child and explain things from a medical perspective. Once the child hears what he has to say and if the child obtains his cannabis card, perhaps part of the conversation should be that “as your parent I would like to be with you the first time you try cannabis as I can provide sound guidance”.
As your kids get older, they’ll start to see and hear more about “pot”, and they may come to you with their questions. Satisfying your child’s need for information means educating yourself on the new cannabis landscape, whether you consume or not. Cannabis is everywhere, and it will not only look and smell like “weed” but also comes in a lot of different forms. (i.e. smoking, vaping, edibles, topical, etc…)
Also please educate your child about the dangers of delta-8 THC and other synthetic THC available outside the dispensary, along with the dangers of “street” cannabis because of the fentanyl crisis.
Ideally, parents should understand the differences to accurately explain the benefits and side effects to their kids. Dr. Hashim offers a great deal of educational research based information along with videos on his website at www.TheHerbalClinicMD.com as well.