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ASK THE THERAPISTS: How do I come out as a pot smoker to my kids?


By keeping your habit a secret to teenage children, you may hinder the trust between you.
By keeping your habit a secret to teenage children, you may hinder the trust between you.

With the recent legalization of cannabis, I am happy that I can finally be out about my habit, but I still have not told my kids. I am concerned about the effect this might have on my 15-year-old son and my 10-year-old daughter, who recently declared that there will be no marijuana use in our house. What should I do?

Legal but still hiding

Blair

One of the essential ingredients for effective parenting is open communication where everyone feels safe to share honestly about the details of their life. With regards to cannabis, you will want to have age appropriate conversations about cannabis in general and why people use it. Be sure to keep your tone at a discussion level, not a lecture style so as to maintain comfort and safety.

When the timing feels right, you can divulge your own personal usage, and what forms you consume so your children know to avoid them (in case they are ever left out). Yes, you may feel some shame as you reveal this, as it will take some time before society drops the stigma that still lingers around cannabis use.

As a note of caution, by keeping your habit a secret to teenage children, you may hinder the trust between you. If you deny your usage now and they find out later that you do use cannabis, they may question your honesty in other areas of life as well. Your children are of the age where you could have an open conversation about it. If you don’t want to lie to your children but don’t feel comfortable sharing your habit with them, perhaps you should refrain from use until you’re willing to discuss it.

It’s crucial that we all practice safe and moderate usage, and that our children are educated on the risks involved in the consumption and over-usage of cannabis. Many years ago, I had a client who was consuming copious amounts of marijuana and experiencing psychotic episodes. I told him to ask his psychiatrist if there was a link between cannabis and psychosis. My client came back and reported that his doctor could not confirm the connection. Today, there is evidence that correlates cannabis consumption with possible psychosis, and research continues to reveal more and more about the drug that we didn’t know before. Therefore, we must all proceed with educated awareness of cannabis, especially when children are involved.

Jenny

This is a very real concern for many parents who want to be good role models for their children, but also want to live their desired lifestyle. Our culture is slowly adjusting to this new reality, and still has judgments and opinions around it. As users emerge from the underground to a more public forum, it’s good to take a gradual and cautious approach to the conversation about personal substance use with kids.

Just as you would approach a discussion on healthy sexuality, you can start with the basics, educating them on the different uses and benefits of cannabis (which they may know as weed, pot or marijuana), the different forms that it comes in. You can also discuss the benefits of CBD oil which is actually used medicinally for PTSD sufferers and those living with chronic pain, which can help to dissolve the stigma.

It’s essential that they also know about the hazards of cannabis use, especially for the developing brain, which is why it remains illegal for children. Clarify to your children that it’s something that’s reserved for adults and, like alcohol, they can make that choice when the time comes for them.

You can also practice being the most responsible user possible, by keeping your substances safely stored away and not indulging at times when you’re parenting solo or responsible for driving your children to and from activities. Even though they are older children, they still need a clearheaded parent on duty.

In summary, as you bravely engage in conversation about cannabis with your children, drop the shame, use neutral language and simply share about the benefits and hazards of the drug. Once you’ve opened the conversation, it’s best to continue the dialogue as they go through the many different stages of childhood and adolescence. Good luck!

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