Top Ten Tips for Parents of Teens who Smoke Pot

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. 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.   He may be reached at

6 Ways to Improve Your Mental Toughness

Stop Blaming Others.  Mentally tough people know how to take responsibility.  Sure, it easy to feel hurt because of other people’s actions or words.  However, mentally strong people know what is their responsibility and what is not.  Take responsibility for what is yours- including your thoughts, feelings, and emotions.  Sometimes things happen that we have no control over, and the most we can hope for is to keep our head above water until the emotions subside.  But, you and only you are responsible for how you respond to life’s stresses.  Remember, self control = self esteem.  You will never see mentally tough people blaming others for messing up their day.  Instead, they take responsibility and accept their responses as their own.

Stop Taking Things Personally.  Mentally tough people strive to take nothing personal, even though it may seem and feel personal.  Whatever other people do or say is a reflection of their character, not necessarily yours. Where needy people see the world and its slights revolving around them, mentally tough people do not take themselves so serious as to think everything that happens is about them.  They recognize, other people have their own unique thoughts, feelings, and actions unrelated to anything personal.

Stop Predicting the Future. Mentally strong people know they cannot predict the future. There is a big difference between setting goals and the actions you will take to achieve those goals versus constantly living in a dream of the future.  How you handle this moment determines your next moment and ultimately, your future.  Focus on what is happening now and how you want to handle the present.  The future will follow without a doubt.

Let Go of Illusions. While we all love to dream, it takes more than a dream to make a dream come true.  More often than not, our dreams do not come true.  It is fine to “dream big” as long as you are incorporating and adapting to the information reality is providing.  Mentally tough people know when to fold and when to keep going.  If you are living in a fantasy world, more likely than not, you may be causing yourself more harm than good.  Denying what is not going so well, is a sure way to keep it going that way.   Never be afraid to take stock of your life and adapt your dreams as needed.

Let Go of the Past.  Mentally tough people know the past is gone.  And, while the past may inform our current feelings and  patterns, the present is where the future unfolds.  The question is, what future do you want to actualize?  You cannot drive a car in reverse for long.  Being human means we will experience losses. Mentally tough people accept the losses, and instead of wishing they could go back in time, they accept the present

Accept Success  This may sound mundane, or a given.  But , mentally tough people believe they are worthy of success.  There may be mistakes along the way, but are you truly ready to accept that right actions will lead to success.  Do you accept your unique talent and ability to cope?  

Self-Improvement is a hard earned battle — and one that is not won overnight. And while sometimes we have to learn how to fine tune our approach and leverage the adversity, sometimes we also have to learn how to get out of our own way.

What is the Problem?

Marc Aronoff


The greatest obstacle to emotional honesty is fear.   And that goes for the reasons you might smoke marijuana or do drugs.

A famous teacher once said,

“The more we feel emotionally integrated, the more we alive we feel.  The more at war we are with our feelings, the less alive we feel.  Emotional integration requires emotional honesty.  You can’t integrate a feeling you refuse to acknowledge.  The reason we do not acknowledge what we feel is because the meaning associated with it is too dangerous or threatening to face.”

Here is a real life example: a boy named “Owen” wants to break up with his girlfriend “Jennifer” because he wants to date other girls.  Jennifer feels very upset, abandoned, and empty.  And her (now ex) boyfriend, triggers in her sadness and fear, because breaking up reminds her (perhaps unconsciously) of when her parents broke up.  Jennifer saw her father and mother get divorced five years earlier and it was horrible to experience.  Now, when her boyfriend wants to break up, she is feeling totally overwhelmed. 

She has a few choices: 1. accept herself and the normal sadness of breaking up with someone and by doing this, letting the sadness move through, talk to friends and share her feelings with others, or 2. She can pretend everything is fine and stuff her feelings deep inside and perhaps get really mad at Owen and everyone else around her and act very upset.  It is easier to get mad at others, than to feel your sadness, let go, and give in. 

Sometimes, not always, try just letting go.  Acknowledge your situation and become aware. Ask tough questions: Am I happy? Am I perhaps not seeing the big picture? Am I smoking too much pot? Do I trust people? Do I trust myself? Do not try and be right or control anyone or anything.  Say little, and care a lot by just being aware.   It does not mean you are being passive. This is a situation where you are becoming mindful. Mindfulness is moment-to-moment awarness out of choice. See what happens if you accept your feelings as they are, no good or bad, no judgment, and then, let time take care of you. 

You may be surprised to see you feel better sooner than later.

As you become more emotionally compassionate with yourself and others, the more you become integrated and whole, and the more you can experience greater peace.

And being peaceful is a good thing.

This is at the heart of my new book, “The Cannabis Craze: A Practical Guide for Parents and Teens.” Check it out at