Marc Aronoff, MA. LMHC
1. Know the Basics.
As of today, medical marijuana is legal in 33 States for anyone 21 or older. There are three basic strains available for purchase- Indica, producing feelings of deep relaxation and in medical dispensaries often used for pain management or treating anxiety disorders. Sativa, which is generally producing feelings of wakefulness and increased energy. And a range of Hybrids. The active ingredient in marijuana that produces feelings of euphoria and well-being is THC. Cannabidiol or CBD, is a cannabis compound that has significant medical benefits, but does not make people feel “stoned” with no psychoactive ingredients (less than .03% THC). CBD is now widely available in oils, tinctures, balms, and lotions, and treats mild anxiety, mood, and pain disorders, among other ailments.
2. Have an Opinion and Let it be Known.
Adolescence is about individuation and experimentation. If and when the subject of marijuana comes up, let your teen know how you feel and what you think. Have an opinion. Some Social Theorists believe it is of primary importance to let your teens know how you feel and think about life in general. This can range from thoughts on “right and wrong” to “what makes for a good society.”
3. Don't Quit Your Job, but Be Present and Spend time with your Teens.
Studies have shown being present in your teen’s life is a significant factor in their short and long term health and wellbeing. In a Pew Research Study, “Parenting in America” respondents were asked, do you spend too much, too little, or the right amount of time with your kids. 36% of respondents felt they spent too little time with their kids.
4. Communication is the Key to Building a Trusting Relationship
Trust is built one conversation at a time. Unfortunately, it is nearly impossible to stop a teen from experimenting with pot if her or she is determined to do so. Parental power and control are moving targets which come in the form of laying as consistent a foundation as possible and cultivating trust along the way. You know you have achieved a deep level of trust when your kids can talk to you about most anything. In the meantime, the “good enough parent” is always striving for balance between love and discipline for their children. As a colleague (and a parent of a teen) likes to say, “trust in not declared or decided, it is built brick by brick.”
5. If you, the Adult, Smoke Pot, Consider Not Smoking With your Teens
I know a father who smoked pot and so did his 16 year old son. The father decided it was a good idea to purchase pot for his son, so he did not have to buy from the “dealers” at his school. Boundaries are things you say or do that keep you emotionally safe. You may want to ask yourself, “Am I modeling good boundaries for my kids?” As more adults “recreationally” use pot, it is important to keep good boundaries between what you do in your private life and how you raise and teach discipline. If you are a parent who smokes pot, consider keeping it private.
6. Know the Law in Your State
Every state is different. Keep in mind, just because marijuana is medically or recreationally legal in your State, employers are not required to permit or accommodate marijuana use or being under the influence in the workplace or on the employers property. And every state will have different by-laws. www.thecannabisindustry.org is a good resource.
7. Excess Marijuana Consumption May Effect Short and Long Term Motivation
Studies have established that the teenage brain is still developing and is more susceptible the effects of marijuana including decreasing motivation in the short and long-term. Some studies have shown long term marijuana use may stifle motivation. The later in age one begins to smoke pot, the less the effect on motivation and possible memory issues. Researchers have found that levels of dopamine are lower in long-term cannabis smokers and those who began using the drug at a younger age.
8. Family History of Mental Illness and Pot
While marijuana is generally not considered a “gateway” to harder drugs, pre-existing mental health conditions is a gateway. Family dynamics and history may play a significant role in a teen’s trajectory toward difficulties or success.
9. Communicate, Keep your Cool, and Guide.
I often ask my teen clients, “If marijuana is your medicine, what is the illness?” And, they often have an answer: “Relief from boredom.” “It makes me feel good.” “All my friends do it.” “It helps with sleep.” Or, “I don’t know, I just like it. I want to feel good.” Which begs the question, is life about feeling good? As one client of mine, who is a parent of a teen likes to put it, “My job is not to entertain my teen children, but to love, communicate, and discipline them.”
10. So, your Teen is Considering or Already Smoking Pot. Don’t Panic.
Assess and talk to your teen about Marijuana, as needed. Each child is unique. While the average teen will experiment with marijuana between the ages of 15-19, many will self-regulate, get their homework done, and go on to work and thrive. Pay attention and speak up as needed.
Marc Aronoff is a Licensed Mental Health Counselor in Private Practice in Lenox, Massachusetts. He is the author of "The Cannabis Craze: A Practical Guide for Parents and Teens. His upcoming book, "Marijuana: Old Age and Pain Relief" will be released in the Fall of 2019. www.thecannabiscraze.com He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.