Emerging research has demonstrated that even the use of “soft” drugs such as marijuana can have a deleterious effect on developing brains, including those of adolescents. Marijuana use directly alters the parts of the brain responsible for memory, learning, and attention, and may be capable of permanently lowering a person’s IQ and interfering with other aspects of their neurological functioning when consumed regularly prior to adulthood. Due to these effects, marijuana is especially harmful for adolescents with ADHD.
At the same time, research is also proving that the typical parental rhetoric surrounding marijuana use—replete with scare tactics, lectures, threats, and other iterations of “tough love”—is a very poor deterrent against teen marijuana use. By and large, these one-way conversations tend to fall on deaf ears, and if you put yourself in your teen’s place, it’s not difficult to understand why.
Teens are dealing with a great deal of turbulent change in their lives, along with intense social and academic pressures; ergo, to effectively communicate with them, one must at all times remember the value of active listening, objectivity, empathy, and non-judgemental language.
Many parents feel as though they must strongly project and convey their own fears in order for the teen to truly understand the harm marijuana use may cause, but in reality, this idea just leads to the use of fear-infused language and emotional tension. This in turn leads to uncomfortable conversations which actually take the focus away from the subject of marijuana use, as the teen will be far more occupied by thinking of ways to exit the conversation than he or she is thinking about the risks inherent in marijuana use.
The frustration parents experience when talking to their teens about marijuana use is often a result of misconceptions on the part of the teen, rather than actual ill-will or intentional rebellion. By having a strategy in place to troubleshoot these misconceptions, parents can communicate information about the issue at hand more calmly and effectively. Listed below are six common misconceptions which tend to derail conversations about marijuana use before they can become effective, and how to handle them in a way that keeps the dialogue open:
1. The teen believes that one conversation about marijuana was enough.
If you’ve already brought up the risks inherent in smoking pot before, your teen will likely be eager to avoid a repeat of the uncomfortable topic, and fear you’re going to get into a habit of “nagging” him or her about the subject.
It’s important to emphasize to your teen that nobody talks about potentially life-changing decisions only once (no one has a single conversation about buying a car or getting engaged, for example). Non-judgmentally explain to your teen that you see marijuana use as something which could potentially impact his or her life a great deal, and thus, it’s normal and natural to want to talk about it more than once. Assure your teen that it’s okay if he or she does not wish to broach the topic at that exact moment; allow the teen to pick a better time if need be.
Likewise, try not to bring up the topic without adequate reason, such as believing your teen may have changed his or her marijuana use habits, or having recently read some emerging research on the possible risks of teen marijuana use. Kids fairly quickly learn to tune out repetitive information, so it’s wise to choose relevant moments to reintroduce the topic.
2. The teen believes recreational (i.e. weekend) use is no big deal.
Teens are often warned at school about the dangers of drug use through graphic depictions of addiction, of people who lost everything they had…
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