Written By Liz Gold
As we head into September, it’s the perfect time to initiate conversations with your kids about consumption and brush up on your safety precautions as you get ready for the cooler weather.
If you have hesitancy around talking to your children about your medical cannabis use, you are not alone. It can be a scary, confusing conversation – one that you’d rather avoid. With mixed messages from schools, friends, and the media, it can be challenging to know what to say, and when to say it. But it’s one of the most common questions we get here from our medical patients – how do I talk to my kids about this?
The answer: Openly and with intention.
As your kids get older, they will appreciate knowing they can rely on a stable, nonjudgmental adult to tell them the truth about the plant. They will appreciate your conscientiousness and boundaries around consumption, as well as the opportunity to talk about it regularly, in a normal, non-stigmatizing way.
Be proactive. Don’t wait to have important conversations about cannabis. Make it one of the topics you talk about before your kids are at the age they want to experiment. Know the facts about cannabis and arm yourself with them so you can be on solid ground when those questions start coming.
While cannabis is a plant and provides a spectrum of healing qualities for a wide variety of medical patients, healthy children should not consume cannabis. A guiding principle to remember is that healthy kids under the age of 21 should not use cannabis in any form.
There is a massive amount of growth in the brain up until age 25. Neurons are making many new connections and strengthening existing ones. So, when kids are partaking with any substance – alcohol, cigarettes, sugary drinks and yes, marijuana, the brain hasn’t been fully developed and it can impact behaviors and functions. Give them the information they need, so they aren’t reaching for a substance to help them feel better in social situations or numb pain.
Remember, when we tinker with systems at an early age it creates pathways for problematic relationships with these substances.
That said, while children shouldn’t partake in cannabis consumption, they – depending on their age – certainly should know about the plant and how and why their parents or guardians consume. And they should learn it straight from the source.
Should I Tell Them About My Past?
This is another common question we receive from medical cannabis patients. Discussing your own past is a very personal decision and depends on the family. As a parent or guardian, you know your kids best. The question becomes, would it be beneficial for them to hear about it or not?
If you are going to share your past history with your kids, consider giving them context. Aside from sharing that, yes, you did consume, talk to them about why and share with them how the experience was for you and if you would do anything different. Perhaps you learned an important lesson or wouldn’t do it again in the same way. Talk about this and let them know they can ask questions in return without any judgment.
If you are going to have this conversation with your kids – do it during a regular activity such as driving them home from school or watching TV at night. And be prepared; having the conversation with yourself before you initiate it with your kids can help clear your head and organize your thoughts.
Better Safe Than Sorry
As a patient, cannabis is your medicine and it should be discussed as any other prescriptive medication. However, it needs to be away from your children at all times. Here are some tips to consume safely when you have children in your home.
Keep it Secure
Always keep medical cannabis in a safe, secure place away from children, guests and pets. Store in odor proof packaging in a safe lock box. (add in link). If you consume edibles, once it is out of its original packaging, decide on a way as a family to label it as mom and dad’s medicine. Mark it clearly and stress that it is not something that kids need to be getting into. If you are growing in your home, childproof all the cultivar areas with locks and be extra vigilant. Know how much cannabis you have and are growing. If you are cooking with cannabis, label all infused products and store them in child-proof containers in high to reach places.
While some patients need to consume all day long to keep up their endocannabinoid level and may have no choice but to use in front of their kids, ultimately, it’s a very personal decision. Most patients choose not to consume in front of their children and will bear the cold winter to do so outside. If you regularly smoke, consider vaping, as it will minimize odor.
Monitor Your Medicine
Know how much cannabis you have in your home and keep track of it well. Let your kids know you take your medicine seriously and that you are paying attention to how much you have. This may prevent youthful exploration.
For infants up to age seven, don’t use your medicine in front of or in the same room with your children. Nursing moms should know that cannabis metabolites are present in breast milk and should discuss with their doctor whether and how long to abstain from cannabis. Edible and infused products should be stored in a safe or lock box at all times. Store in a closet or area that is out of reach of little hands. As children begin to speak and add new words exponentially, consider whether you will call your medical cannabis, marijuana or something else. Instill in your kids the understanding that this is medicine, and that it is only for grown-ups. When questions arise, reinforce that cannabis is not for kids and that people who start using it when they are young tend to develop more problems with it later on.
Keep having honest and age-appropriate conversations. Keep modeling responsible use and storage behaviors. Ingestible cannabis is far more potent than flower medicine and requires education and guidance before use. Always make sure that no one mistakes your medicine for food.
The bottom line on talking to your kids about cannabis? Be honest but discreet. Stay open and be informed. Their safety is at stake.