Cannabis and Parenting: Just Say Know

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Parents today are often overwhelmed by trying to juggle the demands placed on them by their jobs, children, and households. It is no wonder that parents would like to consume something at the end of the day to help alleviate that stress and relax before bed. It’s not uncommon for a parent to unwind at the end of the day with a glass of wine, a beer, or a mixed drink. This has been the standard practice for many parents and adults, mainly because no other options were available.

Cannabis and Parenting

With the spread of cannabis legalization sweeping across the country, more adults are using cannabis. The barriers to entry that have plagued our past, such as criminality, social stigma, and safe access to cannabis, are finally being removed. This shift leaves parents with a new option to explore when trying to shut down for the evening. As a relatively new phenomenon, many unanswered questions remain. Is it safe to possess cannabis with children in the home? Should you be open about your cannabis use or hide it? How do you talk to your kids about cannabis?

These questions are unexplored territory with the onus left on the parents to figure out. Answers to these questions are critical because they will dictate how upcoming generations perceive cannabis. This article will explore these questions and aim to generate ideas for parents to work from when trying to figure out how to incorporate cannabis into their lives.

Safety First

The biggest issue that needs to be addressed when parents are considering whether or not to use cannabis is safety. As a parent, keeping your children safe is paramount to your role as a caregiver. A 2016 study looking at the rates of children exposed to cannabis in Colorado after legalization found a 34% increase in accidental cannabis composure compared to the nation’s 19% increase as measured through reports to Regional Poison Centers. The researchers noted that the majority of these cases were due to inadequate parental supervision or product storage.

Cannabis exposure in children should be avoided at all costs for two main reasons. First, because children are so much smaller than adults, the adverse effects of cannabis can be much more pronounced. Side effects include intense nausea, vomiting, and anxiety, which can be a horrific experience for a child who has no idea what is happening. Second, these incidents reflect poorly on the broader cannabis community and give opponents arguments against the legalization of cannabis.

When parents make the shift and start to use cannabis, they need to consider how they are going to consume and store cannabis. In terms of storage, parents should go to extra precautions to keep cannabis products away from their children. Most pediatric cannabis exposure happens when kids mistake edibles for regular cookies, brownies, or candy. These types of products should be stored where children cannot get them, ideally with something you can lock. For consumption, parents should consider what fits their lifestyle best and what would be the hardest for their child to consume. Vape cartridges and edibles will be the easiest for a kid to consume accidentally. Find what works best for you and your family. Remember to keep safety and access at the forefront of your mind.

Coming Out of the Cannabis Closet

Once you have addressed how you will store your cannabis in a place where your children cannot access it, it is time to think about how to talk to them about cannabis. For years cannabis consuming parents had to hide their consumption from their children. If a child went to school and spoke about their parent’s cannabis use, they would most likely have found themselves in trouble with the law. Luckily, attitudes and legal restrictions towards cannabis have changed, allowing parents to finally open up to their kids.

Many parents today are still on the fence about talking to their children about cannabis, even in states where it is legal. As the old saying goes, “old habits die hard”, and hiding one’s cannabis use is no different. When confronted with this new dilemma, looking at research done on similar taboo topics can be helpful. One taboo area parents have historically avoided talking to their kids about is sex because it can feel uncomfortable to address. Parents often fear they will inadvertently place ideas into the minds of their children. This is similar to the concerns parents have when considering whether or not to open the conversation on cannabis.

In an article published in 2017 on how parents should talk to their adolescents about sex, some valuable insights can be taken away for parents wondering how to approach the cannabis conversation. One important thing to note here is that talking to your kids about sex in the right way can act as a protective factor against teenage pregnancy and STIs. It all comes down to getting accurate information from a trusted source rather than from their peers or the media, and the same principle applies to cannabis.

The first step before you even open the door to a conversation around cannabis is to educate yourself. This will allow you to not only feel confident in the conversation you’re about to have but also help you provide your child with the most accurate information. Being educated on the subject will also help when your child has questions which will solidify your place as a knowledgeable source on the subject. It is important to admit when you don’t have an answer for a question instead of making something up on the spot.

Once your educated and feel ready to start opening up about cannabis to your child, there are a few things to keep in mind. You want to make sure the conversation is tailored to the child’s age. As kids grow, they can handle more information that is increasingly complicated. Younger kids might need to only know that cannabis is a plant that is for adults to use and is not for them, similar to alcohol or medications. Adolescents may require a more detailed account of the plant that includes its history, common uses, and side effects. Teens and young adults need conversations around what they are hearing and seeing through peers and the media. This age group is where youth typically try cannabis for the first time, so it is essential to be open and honest about the positives and negatives associated with its use. You want to provide your children with an open, informative, and non-judgmental space to talk about cannabis. Make sure to check in regularly, capitalize on teachable moments, and, most importantly, remember what you do is far more powerful than what you say.

A Path Forward

As the landscape around cannabis continues to change, parents need to think about how they will approach this issue with their children. Parents who consume cannabis should not be demonized as bad parents, nor should the parents themselves feel ashamed of their cannabis use. Our society is experiencing a massive cultural shift with the acceptance of cannabis, and parents will play a significant role in how future generations respond to this movement. With any psychoactive substance such as alcohol or cannabis, what’s most important is maintaining safety, having open conversations, and modeling responsible use. Cannabis is a wonderful way to end the day and connect with the loved ones around you as it brings your awareness into the present moment while simultaneously allowing you to relax. It’s about time for parents to feel ok with replacing that glass of wine with a joint or cannabis-infused edible to help unwind after a long and stressful day.

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Derek Espinoza

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