At a recent Health & Wellness fair, the staff at the Sespe Creek Collective booth was delighted by a visiting couple who brought over their two young boys to learn more about the healing benefits of cannabis. It was such a refreshing experience to meet open-minded parents, and we realized that we have a unique opportunity to help balance negative social stigmas about cannabis medicine through early education.
Cannabis is a controversial topic, and although medical use is legal in California, it is still federally illegal, and recreationally illegal in California. So how exactly does one talk to their kids about this highly controversial, legally ambiguous medicine? Obviously each family is different, and you’ll first have to decide what your own position is on the subject, as well as how much information your child can handle.
One place to start is by getting clear about the reasons you chose to medicate with cannabis as opposed to other options like pharmaceuticals. While most Americans wouldn’t think twice about taking their blood pressure medicine in front of family members, using cannabis has a whole other set of considerations. Especially for parents. Many of us choose cannabis because it is a natural, safe alternative. Others choose it because of the holistic benefits—treating body, mind and soul. Whatever your reasons, remember as you convey them to your children that no matter what you tell them, your actions will always speak louder.
Here are a few starting points to consider when opening up the conversation with your kids:
#1 Keep It Close To Home
Talking to your kids about cannabis in general is one thing, but if you choose to discuss your personal medicinal use, make sure they understand it is a private family matter. Friends or parents of friends may not approve and may impose judgments or restrictions on you or your child if they know you use medical cannabis. School-aged children especially should understand that disclosing private family medical information at school can invite unwanted interference from outside agencies. Also, single parent families should also consider the other parent’s view on the matter before discussion. Help children understand that your health information is private, and should not be discussed outside the home.
#2 Keep It Respectful
No one should be made to feel bad for using medicine that helps improve the quality of their life. By avoiding derogatory terms like pothead and stoner, we are helping to cultivate new attitudes about cannabis, as well as passing on those more positive, responsible attitudes to our children.
#3 Keep It Age-Appropriate
The younger your children, the easier it is to talk candidly about any subject, and the earlier you open these conversations with your children, the more likely you are to keep them open.
Talking to younger children about medical cannabis is no different than talking to them about any medicine. Let them know it’s a medicine that is only to be used by the patient for whom it was prescribed. If you use edibles in your treatment protocol, take the time to explain to your children that your medicine may look like a cookie or candy, but it’s a powerful medicine that can make a person feel very sick if it wasn’t meant for them.
Older kids and teens are more likely to have some (possibly inaccurate) information about marijuana and may have already formed judgments or opinions about it, so you may want to begin the conversation by asking about what they know (or think they know), and then listening to what they have to say.
#4 Keep It Real
Be prepared for challenges. Older kids may want to know, “if it’s good for you, why can’t I use it too?” The most important thing we know about cannabis is that we really do not know how it effects young brains and developing bodies. Because of prohibition, hardly any studies exist on the effects of cannabis on children (and the few that do are limited and flawed). Until we know more, the safe and responsible thing to do is discourage underage misuse.
Also, teens should understand that the most severe penalties surrounding cannabis are for cultivating, distributing and conspiracy to do so. Medical legalization does not equal decriminalization.
#5: Keep It Locked Up!
ALWAYS keep your medicine locked up and out of reach of children, whether its cannabis or codeine. And remember, responsible use around children speaks far louder than anything you tell them.
For more information, a great website to check out is http://www.parents4pot.org/.