Should Parents Tell Kids About Their Own Marijuana Use?

mother talking to her daughter about drug abuse

Parents needn't lie if asked directly about their marijuana use, but should try to redirect the conversation back to why teen use is harmful.

With the changing laws and shifting public attitudes surrounding marijuana use, it is inevitable that as a parent you will have to talk to your children about pot. There are many things to consider when having this discussion, and you should know the facts surrounding this highly popular drug if you’re going to give your kids the best information. Also, you should have an understanding of what message you want to send about your personal values and your attitude toward marijuana. And, of course, if you have used the drug in the past, you need to decide what you will tell your kids about it.

To Tell or Not to Tell

As a parent, your immediate instinct is likely to be to avoid telling your kids anything about your own past drug or alcohol abuse. You want your kids to look up to you– you want to be a role model — so telling them about your mistakes may seem counterproductive. There are some important reasons to consider letting them in on your marijuana use, though. Of course, whether you do so is a personal decision, and your children’s ages should also be a consideration, but here are some reasons to consider being fully open and honest.

  • Being honest can be a point of connection. Follow the president’s example. Obama recently opened up to at-risk teens in Chicago about the mistakes he made as young man, including using marijuana. Hearing about his personal struggles helped to forge a connection with these teens, who otherwise might not feel they had much in common with the president. Having that connection means the kids were prepared to listen to his message.
  • Help your kids learn from your mistakes. Maybe your experiences with marijuana are limited and you never suffered any serious problems. On the other hand, if you made some bad choices that led to negative consequences, it can be embarrassing to relive them with your children. Explaining the mistakes you made to your kids, however, can be a powerful message. Let them hear what using drugs can do to one’s life and how you hope that they can learn from your mistakes instead of making their own.
  • Make your kids aware of a family history. If you have a family history of addiction, your kids need to know. There is a genetic component to drug and alcohol addiction. It does not ensure that your kids will become addicts, but it does put them at risk. They should be aware that they have to be especially careful about drug use, including marijuana.
  • Educate your kids about the changing nature of marijuana. If you smoked pot when you were younger, you can use that as a launching point for discussing how the drug has changed over the years. The psychoactive substances found naturally in marijuana are more concentrated in the plants than they were decades ago. Using marijuana has always carried risks, but they are greater today than when you used the drug. Meanwhile, new research has shown that teens who use marijuana heavily risk a six to eight point reduction in their adult IQ, similar to lead poisoning, and long-term trouble with abstract reasoning and decision making.

RELATED: Teens With Cannabis Use Disorder Lose Brain Function

When you do have the marijuana conversation with your kids, how you address your own past is up to you. There are some important mistakes to avoid, though. For instance, don’t lie about your past. If your kids ask you whether you used pot and you’re not ready to have that discussion, tell them you will talk about it when they are a little older. Also refrain from making light of marijuana. Attitudes in general toward this drug are very lax. Make sure your kids understand that there are health risks associated with smoking pot. And, don’t think that having one talk is enough. Your children’s lives change all the time. Their groups of friends shift and the pressures they face may change too. Talk to them regularly about the important topics, including marijuana.

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