With over 30 million Americans partaking in cannabis in one form or another, it’s a safe bet that some of those citizens are parents. So why is talking about parents who light up so taboo? We don’t seem to have any reservations about discussing responsible alcohol or tobacco use among parents. We don’t tiptoe around conversations about parents with illnesses who take insulin or beta blockers. To put it in the words of Ricardo Cortes, “It’s just a plant.”
Education, Education, Education
And kudos to Cortes! Cortes is taking on the parenting and pot conversation in a honest and age appropriate way with his children’s book, “It’s Just A Plant.” The book starts with young Jackie happening upon her parents smoking marijuana after bedtime. Jackie’s mom starts a dialogue by promising to teach Jackie about “mar-a-whahh” the next day. They start their educational journey by meeting a farmer who grows cannabis followed by a doctor who tells Jackie that marijuana is medicine that’s not good for Jackie at her age.
Jackie and her mother encounter police officers confronting some men smoking on the street and it sparks a conversation about illegality for the next few pages. By the end of the day, Jackie falls asleep with a vow to change the world and make laws about marijuana fair. The book is a smart, practical way to talk to kids about weed but, how do we talk to parents about weed?
Nix the Nixon Mindset
The ill-informed stereotypes that accompanied our nation’s failed “War on Drugs” and greed driven laws governing cannabis for the last eighty years have created a hesitancy among parents to discuss their marijuana use for fear of being labeled a “bad parent” or “irresponsible.” Even if we know we are not part of the doped up, glued to the couch, pizza guzzling stereotype, even if we know we are still active, responsible, involved parents engaging our children just like every other parent on the playground, the thought of being painted with that brush haunts us.
With the tides of legal policy changing, it’s high time we change the paradigm and obliterate the stereotypes. The conversation needs to be open in the same way it is with responsible alcohol use or in the case of medical patients, the same way we would discuss any other medication prescribed by a doctor. Unfortunately, that is going to be a long, hard road. With the legality of marijuana in flux between states and states taking sometimes conflicting approaches to child welfare and marijuana, the conversation is going to take some divergent roads. In the meantime, what are parents saying about pot and parenthood?
Do You Feel Pot Changes the Way You Parent?
Funnily enough, many people’s answer to this question is yes and for the better. Parents often say that marijuana use helps them to relate to their child on their level, without the inhibitions of “adulthood” and stress keeping them from enjoying playtime!
When you think about it, that makes perfect sense! At what stage in our lives are we at our most creative? Childhood. That’s because we haven’t been stifled by the demands of life yet and our minds are free to explore and enjoy. Marijuana allows parents to experience a little bit of that freedom again. Of course, nobody is advocating getting wasted and spending time with your kids, but in moderation, many parents believe that cannabis allows them to be more engaged and less wrapped up in their own neurosis.This is especially true for parents who are fighting anxiety or chronic pain.
I think the question relates back to responsible use
Plenty of parents enjoy wine with dinner or beer at the family BBQ. Even more parents rely on Prozac, Lithium, or any other number of mind altering drugs all day everyday and they will also tell you that these necessary medications make them better, more engaged, less self-involved parents.
Do Your Kids Know You Use Pot?
This one is tricky and probably has more variation among cannabis parents. It seems to have a lot to do with how old your children are and their ability to comprehend the current social and political commentary surrounding pot.
As mentioned before, Ricardo Cortes’ book, “It’s Just a Plant” is a great tool for starting this conversation with your kids if you are ready
For parents who rely on cannabis for medical reasons, this may be a conversation you need to have much earlier than parents who use cannabis recreationally since your use may not be as frequent.
At the end of the day, this is a very individual, personal decision for each family to decide and parents should not take on the conversation lightly. Parents should research local laws and ordinances, take into account their child’s age and maturity level, and consider their individual situations when considering the idea of discussing their use with their children.
When, Where, and How Do You Use Pot?
This one is much less tricky. Just like any medicine, always keep cannabis products out of the reach of children unless they have been prescribed to that child and even then, they should be administered by an adult.
Most parents agree that if you are smoking, do so outside or in a different room than your children. Second hand smoke of any kind is not good for children and can have unintended side effects. Cannabis use in people under the age of 18 has been shown to permanently alter their growing brains in ways that may not be in their best interest- such as diminished IQ, poor attention spans, and impaired memory.
As for ingesting cannabis, parents should once again consider moderation. If you cross the threshold to being wasted, you won’t be able to properly respond to an emergency or dangerous situation in order to best protect your child.
Always consider your level of impairment before ingesting cannabis around your kiddos and keep it out of the reach of little hands
At the end of the day, parenting and pot don’t have to be mutually exclusive and parents shouldn’t be forced into silence about responsible use any more than they should be ashamed to have a drink or take medication. As with anything, having an open and honest dialogue helps to prevent miscommunication and misinformation. It ensures that parents learn about moderation and how to navigate cannabis conversations with their kiddos and about their kiddos.
Ignorance and silence don’t help anyone but a community engaged conversation and widely available information and ideas will. Bringing the topic into the light will help educate children on responsible use and change the stereotype that pot makes you a bad parent. After all, it’s just a plant.