We all have the tendency as parents to say the times are different now than when we grew up, even parents that are much younger than me. The times are different but the situations our children can get into are pretty much the same except now, they all have iPhones and Snapchat.
Parents like myself, who have a good enough relationship with their kids to be able to talk about anything, often realize, there’s always something that will catch you off guard.
My oldest child is a 16-year-old girl. She lives with me full time and visits her father whenever she chooses, which is quite often and her relationship with him is much the same as it is with me. I started noticing several months back that she was making references to people smoking pot, using the current slang on the subject and questioning me about my own experiences with it. Now, I’m not one of those parents that lets their kids run buck wild and do everything they take a notion too – there are rules, and consequences for breaking them. However, since she is a currently a senior in high school, (an Honors student btw, graduating a year early) I do allow her some freedom to experience life with friends.
So I’m listening to her and decided to ask outright if she had ever experimented with pot. At first, she said no and being the observant parent that I am, and also a former teenager (smile) I knew she was being less than honest. I looked at her and she looked away…
She finally came clean after my speech on the importance of honesty and admitted she’d tried it.
By that time, I was already carefully formulating my response and knew I had to make my feelings known while at the same time, educating her about some of the effects of THC on young and developing brains.
I think most parents who actually communicate on a regular basis with their kids, would start this conversation off by saying how they understood peer pressure and then give their child room to either admit that was the case, or if it was mere curiosity that prompted the experience. By taking this approach, you lead them to it and then give them room to fill in the blanks – that’s exactly what I did and it worked.
I found out it had been both peer pressure and curiosity. I didn’t scream at her or even get angry, but I did express my concern over her making this choice without at least telling me she’d thought about trying it. In her quick wit and certain intelligence, she then proceeded to ask me if she had told me would I have agreed to let her try it? I really didn’t have to answer her because my expression answered for me. However, I did answer but not with a yes, no, or maybe. I decided now was the time to lay a little of the heavier stuff on her.
I wanted her to understand even though a lot of kids are doing it, and even though pot isn’t considered a hard drug like heroin or cocaine, there are physical and mental consequences for smoking pot at younger ages.
– Increased heart rate – from normal at 70 to 80 bpm, increasing 20 – 50 bpm, sometimes double
– Respiratory problems – Causing shortness of breath or a chronic cough
– Increased risk for mental health issues – Since the brain isn’t fully developed until around age 25, there is a greater risk for anxiety, depression, suicidal thoughts, and even schizophrenia
Again, her intelligence kicked in and she asked what was the probability of this happening with just occasional use vs. smoking frequently? A good question and the sensible answer in my thinking was to say that each person is different with their own chemical makeup. That led to further discussion of the effects of drugs on her young brain.
Studies have shown, the brains of teenagers aren’t fully developed in the area of rationality until around the age of 25, meaning, they pretty much rely on emotions rather than reasoning during those years. In other words, their decision-making skills aren’t up to par and are prone to making snap judgments, ie- giving in to peer pressure instead of thinking it through.
In this study, they give examples of how to help your teenager develop their reasoning skills when making choices.
– Be apt to discuss the consequences of actions, it can help them link choices to fact. The more you discuss, they will make the connection more easily.
– Bolster their self-confidence by reminding them they are competent; This aids them in becoming focused in the moment thereby enabling them to recognize their choices when faced with certain situations.
– Listen rather than doing all the talking, take your cues from them. For a teenager, talking it out adds another dimension to developing reasoning skills.
– Create an emotionally safe space for them so they are comfortable in discussing issues important to them.
In my experience, dealing with this subject in a calm state of mind, put my teenager at ease and motivated her to participate in a candid discussion of the subject at hand.
Kids these days are more open-minded but need the same guidance that we did in our own teenage years. They tend to respect facts more when presented in a manner that we as parents believe they are mature enough to understand them. Besides triggering self-confidence, it builds trust in the parent-child relationship. So if your kid confesses to trying pot, don’t freak out or get angry, stay calm and so will they.
For more information and statistics on this subject …