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As the debate over legalized marijuana amplifies around the country, there’s one thing on which most people can agree: Smoking pot during the adolescent years is a no-no. It can affect proper brain development and lead to cognitive impairment such as problems with memory, says Dr. Paula Riggs, director of the Division of Substance Dependence at the University of Colorado School of Medicine.
But when pot comes in such a wide variety of approachable formats, such as gummy bears—and when parents have pot in the house—how do we instill in our teens a healthy regard for the power of the drug and, moreover, a strong enough will to pass on consuming it? Here, five tips from Riggs.
1. Communicate early and often about it. Make your home a safe environment for kids to tell the truth. Ask questions about what’s happening at school. Be direct. Ask if they feel pressure to smoke or try pot.
2. If you smoke pot as a parent, you can still establish that you don’t approve pot consumption for teenagers. Handle it the same way you handle the alcohol conversation—from a legal perspective. Smoking pot and drinking alcohol are illegal before the age of 21. Underage users could be arrested.
3. Legal or not, be aware of what you’re modeling for your kids. Kids figure out how to be adults based on the actions of the adults in their lives. Don’t disregard the monkey-see-monkey-do theory.
4. If you find paraphernalia, sit down with your child and have a calm, honest conversation. Come up with a solution, but make it clear that as the parent, this is your call. Start enforcing curfews, knowing whereabouts, and communicating with your child’s friends’ parents.
5. Pay attention to changes in behavior and mood. Truancy, slipping grades, and apathy toward hobbies may be signs of frequent pot use.