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Having the hard conversations with kids: Marijuana in Colorado

Monday, June 19, 2017 Leave a Comment

My kids are 5 and 9, so I haven't had to have too many of the "hard" conversations yet. That said, as opportunities arise naturally, we do start to talk about harder topics.

  • When we walk by someone smoking cigarettes and have to not breathe for a minute, we talk about smoking and why that's so bad for your health and the health of those around you.
     
  • When we see a car accident, we talk about texting and driving and drinking and driving and why distracted or impaired driving of any kind is so dangerous.
     
  • When we see certain stories on the news, we talk about drinking too much and what it does to your body, gun safety, and so many other hard topics.
     
  • When a kid at school is mean or gets in trouble (or when they do), we talk about kindness and being an example and leader for other kids, and not just doing something because your friends do it.
We constantly talk about choices - the ones they make, the ones I make as a parent, and the ones others make. "Was that a good choice or a bad choice?" Real life gives us so many opportunities to have these deeper, more difficult conversations.

I heard a story on NPR recently talking about executive function and impulse control, and learned that these skills aren't fully developed in kids until the age of 22. TWENTY-TWO. Oy. It's my job as a parent to give them the tools they need to know how to make good choices, but I also recognize that their brain development at this stage makes it difficult for them to not just act on impulse.

Two "hard" topics I haven't touched yet:  sex and marijuana. They scare me.

Oh, we talk about relationships and the right way to treat people, but we haven't gone into the physical side of things yet. It's on my to-do list with the almost-10-year-old, but it may still be a bit early for that.

Regarding marijuana, we talk about drugs generally, but quoting South Park ("Drugs are bad, mkay...") is too vague and doesn't give them any tools. Marijuana is now legal in Colorado for those over 21. They will see it and be exposed to it, and maybe that will give me some conversation openings, but I can't wait that long. I personally have very little experience with marijuana, so have no clue what to say to them.

Thankfully, I just found out that my research in this area has been done for me. The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) has created a resource for parents, educators, coaches, mentors, and others who work with youth that gives us the tools, tips and information we need to speak with our kids and other youth about the importance of not using marijuana before age 21.

Called Good to Know Colorado, the site has information about Colorado's marijuana laws, tips on talking to youth, facts about the health effects of marijuana use, information for expectant or breastfeeding moms, common myths, and even advice for tourists to our state.

For example, I didn't know that:
  • Secondhand smoke from marijuana contains the same chemicals as cigarettes and can be bad for lungs and breathing, just like tobacco smoke.
     
  • Kids' brains aren't fully developed until the age of 25, and marijuana use can slow or impair their cognitive and emotional development. It also impairs their athletic performance.
     
  • Marijuana is addictive, and those who use it young are more likely to use it, alcohol, and other substances to a greater degree later in life.
     
  • Kids who are caught using marijuana face a Minor in Possession (MIP) charge, which not only comes with a monetary fine and public service, but can cause kids to be kicked off sports teams, lose financial aid, or even lose their job or driver's license.
The CDPHE's advice on how to talk to kids is broken out by parents vs. teachers and coaches, and also by age group – 13-16 or 17-20. As with many other parenting issues, staying connected with your kids is key. Talk to them. Know their friends. Listen. Help them achieve their goals.

The Good to Know Colorado website is super user-friendly - they make it easy to find information based on the specific questions I have and provide answers to questions I didn't even know I had.

You may have seen their commercials – I love these. Parenting is amazing, hard, awkward, and messy, no matter how old our kids are.

When the time comes, I won't be as afraid to talk to my kids about marijuana – I have the tools. Sex, on the other hand... *shudder* CDPHE, can you help me with that one?





Guest post by Mindee Forman

Mindee is a freelance writer, editor, web designer, and social media consultant. She lives in Denver with her husband, two kids, and two crazy cats.

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