Raising kids means teaching them to make good decisions—especially when it comes to their health and future. This becomes more urgent in their teenage years, when young people start to face many tough choices on their own.
You can’t be there for every moment, but parents and trusted adults can talk to teens to help them make safe and healthy choices when they’re not around. Though it may not always seem like it, teens are listening.
Time with your kids is precious, even more so for the many parents juggling jobs and multiple commitments to meet the needs of their families. And though there are several topics competing for your attention, making time to talk to your teen about marijuana is important.
It’s important because the risks and consequences of using marijuana are much greater for young people than for adults. One reason is that their brains continue developing until their mid-twenties. Using marijuana while the brain is still growing can have both short-term effects, such as difficulty keeping up in school, and long-term effects, including the incredibly destructive consequences of addiction.
Young people who learn about the risks of drugs and alcohol from their parents are 50 percent less likely to use than those who do not.
As Washington’s laws and society’s attitudes toward using marijuana continue to shift, talking with your teen about marijuana is urgent now more than ever. The 2016 Healthy Youth Survey shows the number of teens who think marijuana is risky has dropped. And though new legislation will restrict pot shop advertising, numerous retail stores and advertisements for “legal weed” also influence how young people perceive the harms of marijuana.
So when you drive through town with your family and feel bombarded by billboards and signs, consider taking that opportunity to talk to your teen. Let them know about the risk of marijuana use to their developing brain.
It can be hard to see the immediate effect of talking to your teen. Outside influences like peers and pop culture can feel overwhelming. But there is good news. If you are a parent or other trusted adult in a young person’s life—such as a teacher, coach, grandparent or caregiver—you can have an enormous influence on helping them make healthy choices. If you hear the teen in your life mention peers who use marijuana, explain that you expect him or her not to use and why.
We know these conversations aren’t easy and want to help. That’s why we developed the “Under the Influence… of You” campaign. The campaign encourages adults to be involved in the lives of teens and offers resources at StartTalkingNow.org. This website provides the facts about marijuana, tools for connecting with teens and tips for having effective conversations about marijuana.
We can never fully compete dollar-to-dollar with the advertising budgets of Big Tobacco, and now the marijuana industry. But we can show our teens that their health and safety comes first. Remember, teens are under the influence…of you.