If you have teens, I’m sure you’re familiar with their common forms of deep and meaningful communication.
ME: “How was your day?”
ME: “Did you end up doing ok on that English project you were worried about?”
ME: “So how is that issue with your friend you were struggling with?”
TEEN: “Don’t worry about it Mom”
That last sentence was sort of wordy for my kids, but you get the gist. Conversation with teens isn’t always easy.
As Mom to these two chatty teens, I find it somewhat ironic that the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment’s youth retail marijuana prevention campaign reached out to me to ask me to help them promote their awareness campaign to help parents and other influential people in kid’s lives (teachers and coaches) talk openly about marijuana and what its legalization means to them.
What a challenge! Not only are they not overly conversational, but the issue brings up whether or not you want to be honest about what you did when you were younger – or if you smoke now.
In 2012 Colorado approved the legal sale of retail marijuana to people over the age of 21. At that time my now ex-husband was already a regular marijuana user, however because it was illegal he didn’t smoke anywhere near the kids or the house. When marijuana was legalized, the boundary we had established as a married couple ⎯ it’s illegal so you can’t have it in the house ⎯ was moot. He still smoked in the garage, but he did it fairly openly, as openly as he had smoked cigarettes.
My kids, 10 and 11 at the time, expressed concern about it. Mostly they noticed the “funny” smell but neither realized the difference between cigarettes and pot. Their primary concerns at the time were the health risks for him. They had been begging him to quit smoking cigarettes because of the hazards they had learned about at school. Their elementary school had a rigorous “anti-drug” and “anti-smoking” campaign and so they had been hearing about the “evils” of these substances for years.
While both of my kids were anti-drug at the time, we did have a discussion about, “What would you do if your friend wanted to smoke your Dad’s pot?” My daughter answered (and still answers now) that she would immediately stop being friends with that person. I don’t know if that’s true, but she is pretty black and white about things.
In preparing for this story I had the realization that our last big open talk was 5 years ago and now my kids are in high school. It prompted a fairly fun, honest, and unusually chatty chat with my two teens. My oldest still says she’ll unfriend anyone who goes anywhere near drugs, alcohol or cigarettes. My son on the other hand is a different story. We did a role play with him and a fictional friend and talked a bit about how to talk to other kids about your unwillingness to try something just because it might be fun. He had a lot of misconceptions about what effect pot might have on him or his friends – mainly he thought it would kill him. While I explained that it would have long term effects and was bad for you (see here) it wasn’t likely to be fatal. We also talked about how the effects were long term and any known association with drugs meant immediate inability to be in marching band (which he loves).
The great news is I had come prepared… Good to Know Colorado is the nation’s first public education campaign regarding the legal, safe and responsible use of retail marijuana. CDPHE has launched a youth marijuana prevention campaign that gives trusted adults the tools, tips and information they need to speak with youth about the importance of not using retail marijuana before age of 21. Their website at www.GoodToKnowColorado.com/talk has tons of information including tips on how to talk to teens at different ages, as well as information on the health effects and consequences for teens that use marijuana. I found the site really helpful.
For more information on how to talk to your teens or questions you might have, visit their website at www.GoodToKnowColorado.com/talk.