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How should you talk to your kids about marijuana?
Talking about drugs and alcohol with kids is awkward. And now that there is an initiative on November’s ballot that would make marijuana legal for people 21 and older, families might want to figure out what their boundaries will be. So far, 17 year old Mary Kupper, a junior at Lakeside School, hasn’t gotten that memo yet from her parents Bill and Jane Kupper.
“In recent memory, they’ve never told me ‘don’t do marijuana’. I consider myself a pretty good kid. We’ve had more alcohol talks than pot talks."
While Mary’s parents are more worried about the dangers of alcohol, Jane, Mary’s mother isn’t thrilled there might be another substance on the market that could hurt her daughter.
"Smoking pot, it’s smoke in your lungs and it’s a health risk.”
Mary’s dad, Bill, chimes in, “unless you’re eating brownies or other edibles. there are a lot of good recipes out there on the internet.”
Mary looks mortified that her father is even mentioning recipes for making pot brownies. This talk is getting a little awkward. It’s supposed to be this way according to Yvonne Monique Zick, a parent educator for Vashon Youth and Family Services.
"It doesn't have to be comfortable."
Zick teaches moms and dads how to have the talk with their kids. She says once parents figure out what the house rules will be surrounding drugs and alcohol, parents should talk about them a lot with their kids and ask them what they think. Just keep the communication flowing.
“Research still shows that parents are the number one influencers of kids decisions. So we still have more power than any other person in a kids’ life. And I ask parents how do you want to use that power? Where do you want it?
Of course, some questions from children will be hard to answer. If a child asks a parent if they use marijuana and the parent says, ‘Yes I did’ or ‘Yes I do’ Zick says that should be followed by, yes AND, instead of the double standard, yes, BUT.
“If you’re going to say yes, say yes, and. And the drugs are different today. They are bred for maximum impact. We just know more now.”
Zick tells parents that a good way to get teens and tweens to hold of trying marijuana is to lay out a list of positive consequences.
“You’re going to get more freedom. You’re going to get a driver’s license. I will trust you will be where you say you are going to be.”
These are benefits 17 year old Mary Kupper is enjoying as a result of the trust she’s built with her parents. Mary has no interest in trying marijuana. But she’s not blind to what her peers are doing and informs all of the adults in the room that getting a hold of pot is a lot easier than scoring a pack of cigarettes.
“When teenagers say they smoke, the assume it’s marijuana and not even cigarettes at all. it just seems less dangerous from other drugs because it seems less harmful.”
Bill, Mary’s dad, says he’s going to vote to legalize marijuana, and hopes the public health campaign that’s required by the law will educate young people like his daughter, about the health risks.
“There’s plenty of studies about dropping 5 to 10 IQ points. You have to be careful with that developing brain. It’s like breaking in a new car, you have to go easy when that engine in young.”
So, if this initiative passes, will consuming or smoking marijuana be socially acceptable in the Kupper household? The Kuppers don’t have a firm answer yet. For now, Mary Kupper is certain she will not be baking pot brownies in her parents’ kitchen when she’s 21-years old.
“There are so many lines to cross with my parents and the relationship I have with them, doing that would just be so awkward and weird."
Mary even has a hard time imagining drinking with her parents when she’s that age. The idea of adding Marijuana to that milestone just makes her cringe. Still, the Kupper family is ahead of the game. At least they’ve started this conversation.Now they just have to figure out how to keep it going.