With NJ legalizing recreational marijuana this past state election, many parents are concerned about their children’s increased exposure to it. Openness and honesty are crucial to having a successful conversation about marijuana legalization with your children so that they make responsible choices. Here are five tips to effectively talk to your kids about marijuana.

1. Establish an open conversation, not a lecture.

Your children likely have questions about marijuana use so creating a conversational space, or a dialogue will help them feel comfortable asking questions.

To avoid lecturing, let your children know that you’re interested in their feedback, perceptions, and questions about marijuana use at the beginning of the conversation.

Employ active listening techniques to ensure your children understand you’re hearing their concerns. Don’t interrupt them and make sure you restate what they say, asking if you’ve got it right. Making sure your kids feel heard can go a long way in strengthening their trust in you regarding this sensitive topic.

2. Offer facts, not opinions.

Did you know that roughly 50% of kids aged 12-17 know where to get marijuana if they want it, or that one in six people who start using pot as a teenager display addictive tendencies toward the drug? When you talk to your kids about marijuana use, provide facts about how people use and abuse the drug. Communicate an understanding of their reality: they live in a world where marijuana is readily accessible to them.

Sticking to the facts can drive home the serious nature of the conversation and provide your children with the information they need to make the choices best for themselves. Additionally, as laws have changed, kids need to understand the finer points of the new rules. Legalized marijuana does not mean it’s acceptable to drive under the influence, for example, and employers may still drug test and deny employment or fire workers due to the presence of cannabis.

3. Discuss why some people use medical marijuana.

People with pain disorders, autoimmune diseases, cancer, severe anxiety, and terminal illnesses may depend on marijuana as a legitimate drug to treat pain and reduce inflammation. As the medical world has shifted away from the more addictive opioids such as oxycodone, they’ve shifted their research to providing less risky prescriptions which have included cannabis.

Medical marijuana treats seventeen qualified conditions, and users should treat their cannabis like any other restricted drug prescription. Communicate to your kids that medical marijuana is necessary for some people, but to use someone else’s medical marijuana is the same as abusing any other prescription initially prescribed to someone else.

4. Clarify your expectations regarding drug use.

Every parent has their own expectations regarding marijuana use. Before you talk to your kids, decide upon your expectations and clearly set them during the conversation.

With clear boundaries, kids can make informed choices when peer pressure happens or when they otherwise encounter marijuana. Answer any questions about why you have these specific boundaries regarding marijuana use.

5. Reassure your children that you support them and value their health and safety.

Ultimately, you want to protect and respect your children; that means balancing hard and fast rules with their necessary autonomy as they grow. Be sure to communicate that rules and expectations are in place out of your desire to see them healthy, safe, and successful, and reassure them that the dialogue may continue in the future.

Interested in reading more prevention tips for parents? Check out Wellspring’s Parentally Speaking Blog for more compassionate advice on parenting.

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