Pubdate: Tue, 27 Dec 2016
Source: Hamilton Spectator (CN ON)
Copyright: 2016 The Hamilton Spectator
Author: Cassandra Szklarski
Page: A9


B.C. mom Scarlett Ballantyne wonders if Ottawa's plans to legalize
marijuana will make her 14- and 16-year-old daughters more inclined to
try it. But she's not waiting to find out.

Ballantyne says her family has been discussing the dangers of drug use
since the girls were 13 - a preemptive strike as pot shops and
marijuana headlines have been popping up everywhere they turn.

She's proud to say they are athletic, self-confident kids, but she
also gets the impression that their generation sees marijuana as "not
that big of a deal."

"As parents, it's just (about) stressing to them that it is a big
deal," she says from her home in White Rock, south of Vancouver.

"There's a reason why it hasn't been legal and whatever my personal
feelings about it are, they are still underage. They're too young to
smoke tobacco, they're too young to smoke marijuana, they're too young
to drink alcohol. And there's a reason for those rules."

Many questions remain about what restrictions Ottawa might impose when
it introduces legislation next year to legalize recreational use.

In the meantime, experts say parents should be prepared for any
questions their kids might have - but don't wait until you find a
stash in their room.

It's never too early to start the conversation, says Cindy Andrew of
the Centre for Addictions Research of BC at the University of Victoria.

The key is to remain approachable.

Andrew, who helps schools devise drug education programs, says the
hard-nosed '80s approach of a sizzling fried egg and the slogan "this
is your brain on drugs" just doesn't fly.

"The sort of moralistic, judgmental, scare-based tactic kind of
approach really doesn't have a place in today's world," says Andrew.

"This isn't about just railing on your kids and pointing fingers and
lecturing, which we know does not work. It's about opening up
conversation and ongoing communication. It's not about 'the talk.'
It's about connecting with your kids, it's about starting the
conversations well before you discover a joint in their pocket."

Parents can use a trip to the dentist to talk about pain medications
with their grade-schoolers, she suggests, adding that any talk of
drugs should include both positive and negative aspects of use.

This age is also a good time to discuss shared family values, adds
Beverley Cathcart-Ross, coauthor of "Raising Great Parents."

Since "parenting is about prevention," she says it's important to let
prepubescent kids know they can rely on Mom and Dad if they got into
trouble or succumbed to peer pressure.

This is also the time to teach kids how to say "no."

"They're going to be exposed and they're going to be tempted and part
of the preteen life is thrills and excitement and breaking away from
childhood and feeling like a big kid and an adult," says the
Toronto-based parenting coach and founder of the Parenting Network.

Get older kids to open up by asking lots of questions and giving them
equal time to talk, she advises. If a child admits to smoking the odd
cigarette, don't argue, she says. Instead, get them to research how
quickly addiction can happen and report their findings to you.

"The minute the parent tries to be the boss of it and take the upper
hand ... that drives teenagers underground," says Cathcart-Ross.

"You can give your opinion and your values but how many times are you
going to say that? Once? Twice? Three, four, 50 times? Because it's
going to come up over the next five years with that kid ... If you
have said your opinion three times and it's still going on then it's
time for something new. Because your teenager knows your opinion, they
absolutely heard you. It's registered but they're choosing to
disregard that."

Researchers generally agree that adolescents should be strongly
discouraged from using marijuana. The Canadian Paediatric Society
notes brains develop well into our 20s and that cannabis can affect
both the structure and functionality of young brains. They also warn
that heavy users are at risk of mental health issues later in life.

Last month, the society urged that the federal government ban sales to
those younger than 18 or 19, depending on their location in Canada, to
align with age limits for alcohol and tobacco sales. It also wants to
limit the concentration of THC in cannabis that 18- to 25-year-olds
can purchase. THC, or tetrahydrocannabinol, is the main psychoactive
component of marijuana.
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