Knowing that your child smokes weed but not knowing how to intervene can seem like an impossible position.
Public opinion might be more approving of weed these days, but the effects of marijuana on teens may be far more damaging than it is on an adult. And if the drug is affecting their performance in school or in sports they used to love, that's a hard thing to watch.
The negative effects of marijuana on teens include having difficulties solving problems, impaired coordination, and a limited attention span. So, you need to do something.
But what exactly should you do? How can you alter their behavior without alienating your child, or force them to take more risks to be able to get their high far away from home?
Here, we'll walk you through the 10 key steps you need to take if your child smokes weed. Remember, recovery is a gradual process. Have patience with them, and you'll reap the rewards.
First: The Warning Signs
How do you know that your child is smoking weed?
Most teens are smart enough not to come home openly reeking of weed. They'll either sneak in and change, throwing their clothes in the wash. Or, they'll wait until you're out to come back and spray deodorant everywhere.
Here are a few things you need to look out for.
There are a number of physical signs that your child is smoking weed. The most obvious is red, bloodshot eyes. But they may also be developing a very obvious cough, though this may also be a sign of tobacco use.
You might notice them eating more often, or forgetting about simple things. Or they may come across as a bit sluggish or tired and tend to ramble in conversation.
They may also suddenly start chewing a lot of gum or washing their mouth to mask the smell.
Most parents go in their children's rooms from time to time.
Keep an eye out for small bags, bongs, rolling papers, pot grinders, and other materials that look like they might be used to smoke with.
Their Social Life Changes
It's not unusual for a teen to start spending more time away from home. In fact, in many ways, it's a healthy development. They're forming their adult identity and enjoying themselves. That's great.
What's not great is if they start staying out late -- or overnight -- without letting you know.
You might notice they have started hanging out with a particular group of (perhaps new) friends a lot. And they might suddenly lose interest in things they once really enjoyed.
Once you know what to look for, spotting odd marijuana-related behavior becomes much easier.
Here's how to deal with their addiction.
1. Engage Them
You must avoid driving your child away.
Shouting, belittling, and throwing ultimatums at them as a knee-jerk reaction is unlikely to be successful, and could damage your relationship.
They may start to avoid you, spending nights away from home and engaging in increasingly risky behavior. This might get them arrested -- or worse.
You need to engage with them on their level. That doesn't mean being their best friend. A child-parent relationship doesn't work that way.
It does mean having a reasonable conversation. This is the attitude that you should always try to take when talking to your child. Treat them with respect and show that they have a voice, even if you don't agree with what they've been smoking.
However, you should wait until they're sober. Confronting them when they rolled in, stoned, late at night, is unlikely to be a constructive encounter. At that point, you're dealing with the drug, not the person.
You need them to be sound of mind, or they're just going to argue every step of the way.
2. Talk to Them About Problems
People self-medicate to deal with problems. Increasingly, teens are turning to marijuana use to provide relief from stress and anxiety.
While you may not condone their use, understanding the underlying problems is vital if you want them to change their ways.
If they have problems, you might be able to help them do something about it.
Maybe they're stressed because of exams, for example. You can help them find other outlets for their stress. Encourage them to exercise, or take them for a day out.
Don't see this as rewarding bad behavior. Rather, it's providing a vital distraction. It shows them that there are other great ways to spend their time besides just getting high.
3. Provide Structure to Their Days
Give your child a chance to earn back trust by adding structure to their days.
Chances are, you immediately grounded your child after learning they were smoking weed.
Chores are an excellent way of helping a teenager develop a sense of self-respect and responsibility. This way, they can work their way back into your good books, by proving that they can be relied upon.
By developing these positive characteristics, you're minimizing the chance that your child will return to their old ways. It's about showing them better ways to spend their time, not just reverting back to smoking weed out of boredom.
4. Encourage Positive Behavior
You shouldn't just be punishing negative behavior. While your first reaction is likely to be shock and disappointment, try not to linger on these feelings.
When your child shows an interest in positive activities like arts or sports, take an interest and suggest they do it more often.
Praise them when they do well at school, or even when they do something simple like completing chores at home. Don't patronize them, and you definitely don't need to pay them, but a job well done is worth recognizing.
A simple "thanks" or high-five because they've mown the lawn or tidied the den goes a long way. This is a low-cost, low-effort way to keep them working towards a more constructive lifestyle.
5. Talk to Their Friend's Parents
It's unlikely that your child is smoking weed alone. They'll probably be smoking as part of a group of friends who are all developing the same bad habits.
Their friends' parents may not know. This is difficult territory, as you may find other parents take a far more lenient view. Or they might be in complete denial about their son or daughter's activities.
But by broaching the difficult subject with other supportive parents, you can come together to encourage your children to change -- as a group. While they're a group, they may be initially more resistant to change.
However, the kids will see how their peers are improving their lives without marijuana. This will act as reinforcement for them to ditch their own marijuana habit. Think of it as positive peer pressure.
Working together, they can gradually improve each other and turn their lives all the way around.
6. Have Evidence of Your Concerns
Your teen is likely to firstly deny that they're smoking pot.
And secondly, they're likely to deny that it's having harmful effects on them.
They Deny That They Smoke Pot
If they deny that they smoke pot, talk to them about the physical symptoms and behavior you've observed. Red eyes, odd laughter, weird behavior.
Talk about why this worries you. Show them that you care.
You probably shouldn't mention any paraphernalia you found in the room unless they absolutely refuse to address the subject. This is a cue for them to storm off. From their point of view, you were "snooping."
Your house, your rules, sure. But it doesn't make for the most constructive conversation.
They Don't Think It's a Problem
Get schooled up on the facts about marijuana before you take on the subject with your teen.
Take a reasonable line on the drug. The continuing lean in society to be more lenient towards the use of marijuana doesn't help your case, but you should explain to them the reasons why marijuana use in teens is the problem.
In the same way that you must be over 21 to buy alcohol, buying marijuana legally comes with restrictions too. There are health reasons for this.
Showing them the long-term harm they're causing to their body may be the wake-up call they need.
7. Incentivize Their Studies
A great way to boost their studies and get them away from spending time with the wrong group of friends is to incentivize their performance at school.
Tell them that if they can average certain grades, you'll take them somewhere special, or help them to buy something they've wanted for ages.
This is win-win, as you get them distracted from their drug habit, and they (hopefully) get better grades to boot. Help them out wherever you can, and consider hiring a tutor if you really want them to take it seriously.
Keep in mind that this is not about rewarding their current behavior. You should make it clear to them that the offer will only stay on the table if they can stay away from marijuana.
8. Teenage Jobs
Another late-stage technique to help your teen develop self-respect and avoid falling back into the same behavior as before is to encourage them to get a job.
Like chores, a part-time job helps your teen develop a sense of responsibility. While they might be tempted to spend this money on marijuana, by this point they should have the self-respect necessary to say "no".
You should keep a close eye on them though. If the tell-tale signs of marijuana use are re-appearing, you need to help them to avoid a relapse.
9. Stage an Intervention
You've tried everything, but you're at your wit's end with your teen. Nothing is helping, no matter how much you try.
It's time to go a step further and stage an intervention to get them to stop smoking marijuana.
This is where family members and friends get together and tell them how their habit has affected them. Sisters and brothers are often more "in the know" than you might think about their siblings' behavior, and may have missed spending time with them.
Or at least, missed spending time with them while they're sober.
Meanwhile, they may have abandoned old friends to go smoke weed every day. This is also a powerful message to send to them - they're losing people they care about.
10. Take Your Teen to Rehab
If your child persists in their use of marijuana, even after you've gone through all of the above steps, it's time to take a harder line.
Rehab services are very useful, but it's not always easy to get someone into rehab. As a parent, you absolutely can send them there.
But they need to accept that they have a problem for the treatment to be effective. With a stereotypically stubborn teenager, this can be really hard.
However, by showing them you understand their problems, you're giving them the greatest chance of rehabilitation.
My Child Smokes - Where Can I Get Help?
If your child smokes, and nothing seems to get through to them, you're probably thinking about professional help.
And there's no shame in asking for that help.
Finding the best rehab clinic for your child is hard, but our service is here to offer advice and work with your unique situation to find a unique, tailored solution.
For more information on dealing with a loved one's drug addiction problem, keep reading our blog. We have loads of useful information that will help someone you care about back onto the straight and narrow.