Q: I was putting clothes away in my teen child's room and found marijuana. Now what do I do?
So here are some things to make sure you do before anything like this happens:
While some studies indicate marijuana damages the developing teenage brain, with legalization becoming more common, it is difficult for this message to resonate with kids. As far as they are concerned, "weed" is safer than alcohol, easier to get, often has medicinal uses and may make them "feel better." Developmentally, it is also an uphill battle since kids have a hard time seeing how their current behavior will impact them in a future that seems too far away for them to see at all. They see themselves as invincible, and it's a hard sell to convince them that they should care about what happens to them when they are "old."
So, given all this, the best position to take is a consistent message about the consequences of marijuana use (especially the impact on their developing brain and the real here-and-now legal risks while marijuana is still illegal in North Carolina). Then, you can set boundaries about what is acceptable to do in the house and help them address and manage risk. For example, legally you cannot allow them to smoke in the house, but smoking in public puts them at very real risk of getting caught by law enforcement.
Also, understand kids are not likely to be honest with you about their use, but the less reactive and punitive you are, the more likely they are to be open and discuss their concerns. Openness and mutual care and respect are the best chances you have for impacting the choices your child makes when he or she is not in range of your watchful eyes.
Michelle Topal is the owner and a therapist Change for Living Counseling in Raleigh ( changeforlivingcounseling.org).