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Talking to Kids About Drugs

Caring for children and youth can be challenging, but it is also incredibly rewarding. As children approach adolescence they are finding out who they are, what they believe in, what they want to accomplish, and how they view themselves and others. As a parent, guardian, or adult ally you can have a huge impact through this discovery.

Start the conversation about cannabis or any drug early, be open and talk often. The messages you use to prevent or delay for cannabis use, can also apply to alcohol, tobacco and prescription drugs. As parents, we all have tough days and make mistakes. Keep trying.

Check out the Parent Presentations about Cannabis to learn more about Cannabis Legalization and Parenting Strategies.

Common Parent and Adult Ally Questions

In Ontario, the legal age is 19 to use recreational cannabis, alcohol, tobacco and vapes. The legal age may differ between provinces.

The following are key strategies that you can use to help prevent or delay children and youth from using substances:

Be a positive role model – Be the kind of adult you want children to become. Reflect on your own opinions and values about substances.  Think about what you do and say.

Rethink statements like, “what a day, I need a drink”.

Take care of yourself. You can model healthy ways to cope with stress such as going for a walk, talking about problems, and focusing on the positive things that happened during the day.

Be engaged – Look for opportunities to connect with children and youth. Take an interest in their activities and help them to pursue their passions.  Find activities that you can do together. Be supportive and praise them for their positive choices and accomplishments.

For example: “Thank you for calling me for a ride home”.

Talk early and often – Have conversations with your children and youth about anything and everything, and start early. Be open-minded and curious. Consider talking when you are both calm and relaxed. Try situations where you can talk side by side such as in the car, while going for a walk, or when sitting beside each other.

  • Start with your child’s knowledge about cannabis.
  • Be open minded and non-judgemental.
  • Be curious.
  • Talk about peer pressure and how to keep safe.
  • Try active listening and open ended questions about topics they are interested in.
  • Stay informed. Use reliable sources to gather your information.
  • Speak from your heart.

Ask open ended questions like: ”How do you feel about…?” “What worries you about…?”

Create realistic expectations – Find the right balance between using authority and using discussion and negotiation. Include children and youth in setting the rules and consequences; they are more likely to follow rules if they were involved in making them. When rules are broken, follow through on the consequences. Be clear about the expectations that are not up for discussion.

Be in the know – Know where children and youth are, who they are with, and what they are doing. Get to know the other important people in their lives. Balance and adjust monitoring with the child’s growing independence. Educate them on responsible use of social media.

Know the facts – Be prepared when you talk to children and youth. Know the law such as age limits, driving restrictions, and permitted places of use.  Know the myths and facts related to substance use. Look for reliable resources together such as on your local public health unit’s website:

Find the Health Facts: Here are some places to find the information that you might consider reviewing to support your conversation.

Check out these Resources for more Tips and Strategies:

Second-Hand Smoke

Smoking cannabis, especially when combined with tobacco, can harm your lungs and respiratory system. Cannabis smoke has many of the same cancer-causing substances as tobacco smoke.

Not smoking is the best thing you can do to protect your child or youth from second-hand smoke. Keeping your home smoke-free decreases second and third-hand smoke exposure. If you choose to use cannabis, avoid using smoked forms and choose lower-risk products.

Find the Facts

Keep it Secure. Keep it Safe.

If you are planning to have cannabis, alcohol, tobacco or medications in your home, make sure you keep it in a safe, secure and out of reach place.

Edible products that contain cannabis can be a tempting snack for anyone in your home. Consider taking measures to ensure products that contain cannabis are identified, locked up and out of reach.

  • Adolescence is a time of risk taking and curiosity. Help your child reflect on why they are using. This may help you both consider healthier alternatives.
  • Talk to them using a harm reduction approach. A Communication Guide for Parents and Adult Allies: Talking Pot with Teens. This guide will help parents or adult allies start safe, unbiased, informed and non-judgmental kinds of conversations about cannabis. 
  • If you are concerned about your child’s substance use, there are places in your community that you can call. Visit our Addictions and Referral Map to find support near you.

Find the Facts

It is illegal to drive while impaired by any drug.

Youth are most vulnerable: Many car crashes involving teenagers are caused by inexperience and poor judgment. When these factors are put together with alcohol, cannabis or other drugs, the results can be tragic.

Find the Facts

We all have a role to play in our community.

For local expert answers to some other common questions, check out our recent Facebook Live Event.