Q. My husband and I are having a huge disagreement over whether to be honest with our kids (10 and 12) about our pot smoking when we were teens. Neither of us was a total degenerate, but we had our share of wild times. My husband thinks it would undermine our authority and make the boys more likely to experiment if they know that we did. But I think that getting them safely through their teen years is going to require real honesty. Teens can “smell” hypocrisy and if we aren’t honest about our past we will lose all credibility. I should mention that we still do toke up on occasion, but we keep our stash well hidden from them in the top…
A: OK, I’ve heard enough. No. You should not tell your kids about your past, present or future drug use. If they ask you point blank you should lie. They aren’t old enough to hear the truth. Certainly not until after their teen years. Being a parent is a role–you aren’t meant to show every side of yourself to your kids. During adolescence, kids push against the boundaries and limits you set so they can prepare to map their own course. In order for them to do that safely, you have to hold fast to the moral-authority boundaries you set. Denying that you were ever into pot isn’t going to keep your teenager from rolling a joint. But it may (may) keep him from turning into a stoner. Telling him about the time you and your pals got some great stuff from your friend’s older brother is not going to benefit him. In fact, even telling him that you regret having smoked weed is still going to give him a more positive attitude toward smoking it himself. That’s the big take-away from a new study from the University of Illinois, one of the first to compare teen attitudes toward substance use with the messages they’d received from their parents. The researchers surveyed middle-school kids (6th through 8th grade) and found that those whose parents disclosed past substance use, even as a cautionary tale, had a more positive perspective on drugs, drinking and cigarettes than kids whose parents claimed no such history. The kids who were most anti-substance use were those whose parents sent a clear no-drugs message and hadn’t confessed to any previous drug activity.
So,don’t tell your kids the truth. Wait until the precarious teen years are behind them. For now, do this:
–Emphasize your family rule against marijuana use.
–Tell them you personally disapprove of it.
–Remind them it’s illegal for kids to smoke pot in any state.
–Recount stories about people you know, or know of, who have had really bad outcomes from drug use. (Throw in the horrors of cigarettes and alcohol, too.)
–give them advice on how to avoid social pressure to toke, snort, drink, etc.