Talk to Your Kids about Marijuana
Know the Facts and Keep the Conversation Going
Kristi Pinkney-Hines, mother and occupational health nurse weighs in on the importance of starting the conversation early.
It’s October 16, the eve of marijuana legalization in Canada. As a mother of three children Nolan (12), Clare (9), and Hilary (6), I can’t help but worry about what this will mean for them and other youth in our community.
As a nurse and owner of an occupational health services business in Fort McMurray, I’ve seen firsthand the havoc drugs and alcohol can play on someone’s life.
When I was a nursing student, I did a placement at Pastew Place Detox Centre, where I first learned about a Canadian documentary called ‘Through a Blue Lens’. I highly recommend this documentary as an educational tool for parents and teens.
The documentary followed interactions between police officers and drug addicts and documented the extreme poverty and suffering many addicts endured.
In the film, police approached a 16-year-old teenager who was hanging out in a known substance-abuse location. She told police, she “just wanted to get some marijuana and didn’t dabble with hard drugs.”
They took her photo the first time they found her, then again eight months later. The contrast in her appearance was staggering. Her use of marijuana began with innocent intentions.
However, she progressed to heavier drug abuse with cocaine and heroin. Within this time, she lost 40 lbs., and her face was now covered in scars.
When I think of this young teenager, I wonder about how different her life might have turned out if someone close to her intervened and had the conversation early on. This is why, as parents; we cannot shy away from difficult conversations that have the potential to change the course of our children’s lives.
We cannot solely rely on the school system or other influences to have these critical conversations for us. We have a responsibility to educate ourselves and our children about the dangers of marijuana use, particularly on brain development.
Important Facts for Parents
Youth brain development and life success:
- Side effects may include reduced interest in school and activities, lack of attention and ability to concentrate, late-onset schizophrenia, perception changes, depersonalization (which is a feeling of detachment), and more. Source: AGLC
- Studies indicated that people who have college degrees are less likely to engage in marijuana use; however, new students entering into college have the same rate of use as their non-student peers. Source: NCBI
Operating a motor vehicle:
- Parents play a vital role in teaching young people to drive responsibly. That means teaching them not to drive impaired by alcohol or drugs. There is no safe limit for young drivers since even one drink or a small amount of a drug can affect them.
Parents may wish to:
- Discuss how drugs and alcohol can impair driving ability, affect perceptions, and slow reaction times.
- Remind teens that it is always illegal to drive impaired by alcohol or drugs.
- Make it clear that using alcohol, cannabis or other drugs when driving is dangerous.
- Discuss the dangers of getting into a car with a driver who has been drinking or using drugs.
- Model safe driving behaviour by never driving any vehicle impaired: It’s never too early to start talking about staying safe on the road. According to Health Canada and the College of Physicians and Surgeons, residual impairment can last up to 24 hours.
If we know the facts in advance, it can be easier for us to have conversations with our children. And when they know the facts, it will help them with confidence to make good decisions surrounding marijuana use.
We need to break down communication barriers and speak with our children about the impacts of their choices. We cannot make choices for them, but we can provide them with the knowledge to make smart choices to help head them into a brighter future.
Resources for Parents:
- Talking with teenagers about drugs. Source: Government of Canada
- MADD Canada: Source: Mothers’ Against Drunk Driving