Parents have the biggest influence on their children's lives. How parents talk about drug use can influence a child's decisions about using drugs. If parents think it's OK to use drugs and don't caution their children, their children might come to believe that drug use at any age is acceptable.
Talking with your child or teen is important so they can make good decisions about drugs.
Talking with your child or teen will help them understand your values and opinions on drug use.
You can help your children avoid early cannabis use by being a good role model. Examples include:
- Communicate your values about cannabis use.
- Consider not using cannabis around your children as it could encourage them to want to use it and could expose them to harmful chemicals.
- Stay informed. Give your children and teens the facts.
- Seek out resources to help you have conversations about cannabis with your children.
- Don't drive impaired.
- Put all cannabis products out of the reach of children and teens.
- Take time to talk regularly with your children so they know they can turn to you with questions.
- Be open to having a conversation with your children at any time.
From 0 to 8 years of age
Children learn by watching, listening, asking questions and copying behaviour. Small children may not ask questions about cannabis, but it is an important time for parents to help them develop healthy behaviours.
- Be a good role model.
- Answer all of your children's questions honestly and at a level that they can understand.
- Help your children practice decision making skills by giving them options and by allowing them to play and explore. Giving them options to choose from helps them feel confident and trusted to make good decisions.
- Teach your children to say "no" to things that are unsafe, or that make them feel uncomfortable.
- If they ask, explain how you feel about cannabis use. Be prepared by asking yourself these questions:
- Do you feel it's okay for adults to use cannabis, as long as they act responsibly?
- Do you prefer that cannabis is not allowed in your home?
- What helped influence your beliefs? Why do you feel the way you do, about cannabis use?
Never forget that cannabis can hurt a child's growing body and brain.
From 8 to 12 years of age (pre-teens)
At this time, children may start to show more curiosity about cannabis. Pre-teens may get messages about cannabis from their friends and the internet. You cannot control every message that your pre-teen gets, but you can include your own messages for them to hear and from which to learn. Educate yourself so that you can share accurate information with your children.
- Use time spent together in the car or at the supper table to have conversations about things that are important to your pre-teen and you, including your family values and how your family feels about cannabis use.
- Answer questions about cannabis without exaggerating or using scare tactics.
- Help them understand how advertising works and encourage them to question messages they receive from the media.
- Communicate your values about cannabis use.
- Make sure they understand the consequences of underage cannabis use, including both the health effects and the legal implications.
- Encourage healthy ways for your pre-teens to have fun and develop positive self-esteem by participating in activities that interest them.
- Stay involved in their lives by planning one-on-one time or family activities.
- Get to know their friends and friends' families.
- Teach your pre-teens how to make smart choices and how to say "no" to peer pressure.
From 13 to 19 years of age (teens)
Teenagers might think that cannabis is an acceptable and safe way to celebrate or party. Talk with your teen about the real-life, possible consequences of cannabis use, including:
- doing something embarrassing, and even being videotaped, photographed and posted online;
- getting sick;
- being injured;
- being involved in a car collision;
- getting in trouble at school and/or at home; or
- being charged with cannabis possession.
You can also try these tips:
- Choose times and places that make it easier to talk.
- Bring up the topic naturally - like after watching a TV show or movie that involves cannabis; or when there is a news story that involves cannabis use.
- Make sure your teens know the laws regarding cannabis, including underage use and driving when high.
- Be open and honest. Encourage your teens to share their thoughts, experiences, feelings and opinions.
- Answer your teen's questions about cannabis without exaggerating or using scare tactics.
- Set clear expectations and rules around cannabis use. Teens want parents to set boundaries, even if they sometimes disobey the rules.
- Teach your teens how to make smart choices and how to rise above peer pressure.
Questions to help kick-start a conversation about cannabis with your teen:
- Why do you think cannabis is illegal for teens?
- What do you think about our house rules around cannabis? If you were a parent, what would you change?
- Have you been bothered or impacted by someone's cannabis use? What about it bothered you?
- Do any of your friends use cannabis? When and why do you think they do?
- What do you think when people your age use cannabis?
- What would you say if your friend offered you some cannabis? What would you say if a stranger did?
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