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Having the "Cannabis Conversation"?
Having the “Cannabis Conversation”?
Posted on 04/14/2017
Having the “Cannabis Conversation”?
By Christine Peets 
Are parents ever ready to talk to their kids about drugs? With the forthcoming legislation and legalization of marijuana (cannabis), and all of the media attention on opioids, it's an important conversation to have. How should you talk to your teens about drugs? You find out what they are interested in. You listen. You talk about other stuff. You ask questions that will let them know you care about their activities without interrogating them. You let your kids know you love them and that you will always be there for them. 
Those were the over-riding messages at the “Cannabis Conversation” presentation at the Carleton Place arena hall hosted by the town's Drug Strategy Committee. Approximately 70 people were in the audience posing questions to a panel of community professionals who have different encounters with cannabis users. 
The panelists were: Morgan Crew, a registered nurse on the crisis team at Lanark County Mental Health (LCMH); PC Gregory Streng, Community Safety Officer with the local Ontario Provincial Police detachment; Mike Souilliere, Manager of Patient Care Service for the Substance Use and Concurrent Disorders Program at Royal Ottawa Mental Health Care Centre; Mike Beauchesne, from the Dave Smith Youth Treatment Centre; and Dr. Manuela Joannou, an emergency and family physician working in Perth, who has a special interest in mental health and psychotherapy. 
Streng said that his target audience is kids in Grade 6, 7 and 8, but he is often in the local high schools. He is finding that those kids have an awareness about drugs and said that he finds it valuable to be able to go in and have a good conversation with kids, and be seen as a community resource. 
“It's important for them to have good information,” Joannou said. “We have to talk to them in a non-emotional way that presents situations in a way they can understand.” 
Kids also have to be ready to listen, and make a change, Crew said. They may not always be in the right frame of mind to receive the information, which can be frustrating. So, just like with other important conversations, you have to wait until the kids are open to really listening to you. When you're driving them to sports practices and games, watch for opportunities to talk about what's important to them, and what they're interested in. That may open the door to the more serious conversations, Beauchesne suggested. 
Joannou was passionate in her presentation and in her comments on how she worries that kids are losing their motivation, and those kids may be attracted to using marijuana. “It's important to give kids “a smorgasbord as to what could be out there for them, then they will get excited and want to learn more, she said. “I see kids who suffer from what I call 'dream deficiency syndrome' and we need to help those kids become more goal-oriented. Then they are motivated to do well in school, go on to some postsecondary education or training, and if they are engaged, then they are not as likely to turn to drugs.” 
If we want our kids to be engaged, Beauchesne said, then we have to be ready to be engaged with them. “If we shut down what we're doing, if we shut down our devices, and talk to them about what may not be important to us, but is important to them, then they will open up, and that will create opportunities for other conversations,” he said. “They may not want to talk to us when they're older, but they might when they are 12 or 13. Our kids don't come with a manual, and if they did, the manual for the first wouldn't work for the second, and so on, so we have to take the time to get to know our kids.” 
Creating opportunities in communities for kids and families to be involved with sports or other activities that are not necessarily the high-priced activities will keep the avenues of communication open, Streng said. Parents may not want to have the “drug conversation”, but those conversations will happen more organically if you've been together and talking about lots of other stuff. You can have a conversation about drugs without actually mentioning drugs, Souilliere said. 
You can also find out what's happening in your community through the Upper Canada District School Board Parent Involvement Committee UCDSB-PIC. Check the Facebook page, for the latest information. 
“We can talk about all sorts of other things: peer groups, peer influence, bullying, decision making, values, emotional well-being,” Souilliere said. “All of these factors influence whether someone might turn to substances to cope, and if you're talking about those things, then you're finding out why they might turn to drugs.” 
Keep the avenues of communication open. Keep the conversation going. Make a pact with your child that you will be there for them. Then “the talk” will be easier. 
This is the first of two articles about the “cannabis conversation.” More information is available on the UCDSBPIC Facebook page, 
Christine Peets is the Writer in Residence for the Upper Canada District School Board Parent Involvement Committee. (UCDSB-PIC)
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