Many adults wonder about sharing their cannabis experiences with their children or the young people in their lives — whether it’s good to be honest, or if talking about it sets a bad example. The answer depends on the young person and the situation. If you do decide to talk about your cannabis consumption — or if you’re asked directly and caught off guard — the exact words you use are less important than the underlying message. Engaging in honest and open communication is what’s crucial.
Before you initiate this type of conversation or you’re approached with questions, consider your own opinions about cannabis, what biases you may have and why you feel this way. You also need to think about your motivations. Do you want to provide youth with information in a neutral manner so they can make safe and healthy choices, or are you hoping to “scare them straight”? Young people who feel judged for being curious will shut down the conversation, even if they know you’ve used cannabis before.
Whether you consume cannabis or have never tried it, here are tips on how to engage in open conversations with young people.
If you’ve never tried cannabis
Explain why, whether it’s related to your health or family history with substance use, or maybe because of the laws or stigma attached to cannabis when you were a teen. You can ask them if these are factors they’ve considered, too. Keep the conversation neutral, not too focused on positives or negatives, and avoid using stigmatizing words such as “stoner,” “user” or “addict.”
If you consumed cannabis when you were younger
Whatever you decide to share, remember that your goal is neither to endorse nor vilify cannabis consumption. It’s important that young people have the opportunity to talk about their own experiences with cannabis, so if your discussion prompts a young person to share, then pause, listen without judgment and do not devalue their experience. Try to answer their questions as honestly and respectfully as you can. Fostering an open and judgment-free dialogue about cannabis is the best thing you can offer.
If you still consume cannabis
Youth notice more than they let on and will likely eventually bring your cannabis consumption up in conversation. Now is a good time to think about your consumption and ask yourself how your behaviour might affect them — it’s also a question you can ask them directly. Listen respectfully to their feelings and opinions.
Parents and trusted adults play an essential role in ensuring young people understand the health and safety risks of cannabis, as well as the cannabis laws in Ontario. While there is no one-size-fits-all approach for educating young people about cannabis use, having open, honest and ongoing conversations can help them navigate their own experiences and interactions with cannabis, whether they choose to consume it or not.