Empower your teen to make healthy life choices

Research shows parents and guardians are the No. 1 influence in their teens’ lives

If you’re a parent or guardian of a teen, you may be worried about them trying or using cannabis.

First, know that you’re not alone. Second, the good news is that research shows that adults are the No.1 influence in their teens’ lives. While they might seem to ignore you when you try to offer sound advice, the evidence has shown otherwise.

“Teens are happier, healthier and make better choices when their influential adults are involved in their everyday lives,” says Taylor Lawson, Assessment Supervisor at Island County Public Health. “For parents hoping to steer their kids clear of dangerous and addictive substances, the trick is to maintain healthy, effective communication channels with their teens.”

Talking, listening and being present with your teen, in addition to educating yourself on the effects of cannabis, can help you to provide better guidance for your child as they navigate those complicated teen years.

Start talking

Meaningful conversations can happen anywhere and everywhere and they don’t need to be lengthy to be effective.

“A few things to keep in mind: Keep it simple, keep it light and keep it friendly,” Lawson says. “These talks are supposed to provide a safe place for your teen to ask questions but also open up about their own past and present experiences if they need to.”

Start listening

“Communication works for those who work at it.” – John Powell, film composer

Effective communication is a two-way street, try to listen twice as much as you talk.

“You’ll learn more about your teen’s life from listening than you ever will by talking,” Lawson says. “Get to know their friends, their friends’ parents and take time to learn about what your teen is interested in without passing judgment.”

Be present

Teens are influenced by those with whom they spend the most time. Remain a key influence in your teen’s life simply by spending quality time together, Lawson says. Participating in activities that your teen enjoys provides more opportunities to have those casual, comfortable conversations with them and practice your active listening.

Educate yourself about cannabis

If you’re the primary trusted source for information on cannabis, you’ll need to know the facts about cannabis so you can provide accurate information when speaking with your teen. Get those facts online at starttalkingnow.org and encourage your teen to gather their own research from reliable resources such as youcanwa.org

Is your teen already experimenting with cannabis or tobacco products?

Learning that your child is experimenting with addictive substances can, understandably, trigger intense emotions for any parent or guardian. Find supportive resources and partners at the South Whidbey CARES Coalition, Oak Harbor Youth Coalition, and Island County Public Health. Also be sure to watch for Island County Public Health’s guide to handling teen use of cannabis and tobacco products on Sept. 4.

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