As you’re probably aware, I live in Washington State. You might also be aware that Washington is one of two states (along with Colorado) that recently legalized the use of recreational marijuana. In addition, although marijuana is still prohibited under Federal law, the Department of Justice has agreed to not take either state to court over these new marijuana laws.
It is not unreasonable to assume your child expects you also to look the other way.
No matter what your opinion about loosening the laws about pot, and despite the fact that you probably don’t live in a state where marijuana is legal, your teen or his best friend is certainly paying attention. The fact that the line between legal and illegal pot use has blurred means – to a teen, at least – that maybe it’s not such a big deal to smoke a joint now and then. You and your rules are now believed by some kids as being behind the times.
If this matters to you – and it should – then the time to speak with your child is now, not later. Even if marijuana use hasn’t been on your radar screen, if you’ve been more worried about tobacco and alcohol, the time to make clear your stance on pot has come. Here is some advice.
- If you wish to prohibit your teen’s marijuana use, don’t bother to trot out scientific studies to make your case. The science is still out, with some research saying one thing and other research saying the opposite. Your teen will be able to match you, study for study. To avoid a shouting match, don’t try to convince anyone that her brain will rot if she smokes pot.
- Instead, if you wish to prohibit your teen’s marijuana use, make your feelings absolutely clear, just as you might if discussing premarital sex or unprotected sex or binge drinking or whatever else you want to forbid. No need to make threats or trot out unconvincing studies. Just say, “I know this is out there and some kids will feel the situation in other states makes smoking pot okay. It doesn’t for this family. Don’t do it.”
- If you don’t really care if your kid smokes pot or even if you support marijuana decriminalization, still, please, talk with your kid. Remind her that even in states where pot is legalized, it is still illegal for minors. Remind her that the laws in your own state haven’t changed and a conviction for pot smoking or selling will stick with her for a very long time.
- Warn your teen to be careful in party situations where others might bring marijuana to share or might take it upon themselves to serve pot-laced foods. This has always been an issue for party-goers, of course, but is more likely to become an issue now that some kids will think the rules have changed. Remind your teen that a simple traffic stop can become a huge problem if a passenger in their car has a pocketful of paraphernalia.
There’s a good bit of consternation in my state, from parents who suddenly don’t know what to do about marijuana. Laws may change but good parenting hasn’t. Talk with your teen.
© 2014, Patricia Nan Anderson. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Ask for Dr. Anderson’s book, Parenting: A Field Guide, at your favorite bookstore.
You might be certain that your teen never drives under the influence of alcohol or drugs. But can you say the same about the teens your child rides with?
A recent study published in the American Journal of Public Health reports that 28% of high school seniors either drove under the influence in the past two weeks or rode with someone they know was under the influence. Driving after smoking marijuana has increased substantially over the past three years.
Over 17,000 high school seniors are surveyed every year as part of a long-term research project sponsored by the National Institute on Drug Abuse. Clearly, this organization has a vested interest in finding high levels of usage among teens. However, the disturbing level of use – over a quarter of respondents or their friends – and the large scale of the study should make parents sit up and take notice.
Boys are more likely than girls to report driving after drinking or using marijuana or other drugs. But boys and girls report equally riding in a car driven by a friend they know had used alcohol or other substances recently enough to be impaired. These findings were the same across all economic levels and geographic locations.
You cannot chaperone your teen every moment. Even if your child doesn’t drive, his friends may and you are powerless to keep your child from riding along. Part of growing up includes evaluating situations and making good decisions. Kids have to have opportunities to do this.
At the same time, you want your teen to be safe. So do this:
- Talk with your teen about driving under the influence and remember to talk specifically about riding with someone who might be under the influence.
- Remind your teen that impairments in herself or her friends may not be obvious. She should make decisions about whom to ride with not depending on how steady her friend appears to be but on what he actually used.
- Be clear that you will always come fetch your child from anywhere at any time, no questions asked, if he finds himself in a position where there is no safe way to get home without your help.
- Help your child mentally rehearse what to say if a friend shouldn’t drive. The old saying, “friends don’t let friends drive drunk,” applies here. Help your child know what to say. (Yes, your child will think scripting a conversation is dumb, but it will help!)
Automobile accidents continue to be a huge risk for teens, forming the number one cause of death. Help your child – and your child’s friends – to stay safe!
© 2013, Patricia Nan Anderson. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Ask for Dr. Anderson’s new book, Developmentally Appropriate Parenting, at your favorite bookstore.