COMMENTARY

What parents should say to their youth about marijuana

August 14, 2013 

Children and teens begin using marijuana for a variety of reasons. The most common reasons are curiosity and the desire to fit into a social group. Some youth have a network of friends using drugs and are encouraged to join in. Also youth who have untreated mental disorders or are abused have a heightened risk for using marijuana.

Drug use can begin as a means of coping-to help deal with anxiety, anger, depression, and boredom. Being high can be a way of simply avoiding the problems and challenges of being a teen. Research also shows that a family who uses alcohol and illegal substances plays a strong role in whether children/teens will start using drugs. Brothers and sisters have a huge influence over their sibling’s use of drugs. All aspects of a teen’s environment-home, school and neighborhood factor into whether they will try drugs.

Parents can positively influence their teen by talking openly to them and staying actively engaged in their lives. Parents should be aware of changes in their child’s behavior, such as carelessness with grooming, mood changes and deteriorating relationships with family members and friends in addition to changes in academic performance, increased truancy or lost interest in after school-organized activities.

When parents take the time to talk with their teens about alcohol and drug use the teenagers are more likely to consider the consequences of the behavior. It may be helpful to have the conversation while doing something the teen enjoys such as shooting hoops or getting a pedicure. A conversation starter may be to discuss the debate surrounding the legalization of marijuana.

Ask for your teen’s opinion on the topic and listen to what your teen is saying regardless of whether or not you agree. If your teen’s thoughts or opinions differ from yours you might say, “I understand how you could see it that way.” Be sincere and avoid sarcasm in order to keep the conversation positive.

As the parent, ask permission to share your thoughts. If you have done a good job listening, typically teens are open to hear what their parents have to say. This is your opportunity to share your concerns and expectations. At the end of the discussion you need to express your expectations for your child.

Parents can share with their youth that marijuana’s negative effects on attention, motivation, memory and learning can last for days and sometimes weeks. Students who smoke marijuana tend to get lower grades and are more likely to drop out if school. Someone who smokes daily may be functioning at a reduced intellectual level most or all the time.

Long-term marijuana users reported decreased overall life satisfaction, including diminished mental and physical health, memory and relationship problems. High doses can induce acute psychosis or panic attacks. Repeated marijuana use can lead to addiction. Marijuana is unsafe if you are behind the wheel. It compromises judgment, alertness, concentration, coordination, and reaction time.

As a parent, please begin conversations with your child early and warn them of the consequences of using alcohol, tobacco and marijuana. The earlier one begins using marijuana, the more likely one will become addicted.

Ask yourself, “Does my 13-year-old need marijuana, alcohol or tobacco to be happy? If so, what are the underlying issues that must be addressed?”

Now available for parents on www.lscares.com is a link to TestMyTeen.com.

By accessing this website you can receive a free drug test sent to your home anonymously. You are required to pay shipping and handling. This can give your teens an additional way to say no to drugs, “My parents test me.”

Kerri Gray is a Marriage and Family Therapist. She teaches educational programs for parents, teachers and students through Lee’s Summit CARES. She resides in Lee’s Summit with her husband and four daughters.

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