By Ashleigh Berke, Hanley Foundation Prevention Specialist

As marijuana becomes legal in various capacities – a new challenge is presented for parents, caregivers and educators…How do you talk to kids about using a newly legal substance that is gaining societal acceptance and even the label of medicine among some?
Regardless of your role in a child’s life – whether you are parent, friend or teacher – it is important to empower and educate them to make smart decisions regarding marijuana. Below are some tips for how to start the conversation and what to do before you do!

1. Educate Yourself First

Before starting the discussion, it is important to know how marijuana affects a young person’s body and brain. The better you understand the effects – the more impactful your words will be.

2. Encourage Communication

Be on the lookout for opportunities to bride the topic of marijuana with your child(ren). Perhaps you pass a dispensary or retail store with paraphernalia, or marijuana is mentioned or shown on TV. This is an excellent time to ask questions about what they may know or think about marijuana! Most importantly – make sure they feel safe talking openly by avoiding lecturing, judgmental comments, and distractions.

3. Clear and Consistent Rules

Boundaries are essential to creating an environment for children to thrive in. This includes setting clear rules and expectations, being consistent with language and decision-making around these rules, and letting kids know the consequences if these expectations are not met.

4. Give Them the Facts

According to the 2019 Florida Youth Substance Abuse Survey, only 10.4% of youth have used marijuana in the past 30 days. This is often surprising to youth, who are under the impression that most of their peers are using and they are alone if they abstain. This is a powerful fact – they are in the majority when they choose not to use marijuana.

5. Start Today

Most youth who have used marijuana started before age 16 – so start the conversation as early as possible. Keep the conversation going and communicate often so they know the option to talk is always there!

The Bottom Line

Focus on the positives and empower your kids to make decisions that support their goals. Youth pay attention to the words you choose and the example you set! Use this guide as a tool to start the conversation and learn more with the resources below.

For more information visit:

• The Florida Department of Children and Families | https://www.myflfamilies.com/service-programs/samh/prevention/fysas/2019/
• National Institute on Drug Abuse | https://teens.drugabuse.gov/drug-facts/marijuana
• Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration | https://www.samhsa.gov
• Prevention Lane | https://preventionlane.org/marijuana-guide-for-parents

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