As more states legalize marijuana sales and expand the availability of cannabis products for both medical and recreational use, parents are faced with new challenges in explaining to young people the risks and consequences of using. This increased accessibility along with greater societal acceptance of marijuana use make it all the more imperative for parents and other caregivers to take the initiative in discussing substance use. You can get started by opening the lines of communication, approaching the topic proactively and establishing healthy personal and family boundaries. As you may know, the potency of marijuana has increased drastically over the past several years. Some boutique growers are producing strains containing more than 30% THC, which is the main psychoactive chemical in marijuana. The higher potency can create increased difficulties with memory, brain functioning and even IQ. There is also an increased risk of inducing psychosis, a thought disorder. Here, Hazelden Betty Ford clinician Cindy Doth, LPCC, LADC answers frequently asked questions about discussing substance use with young people. When's the "right" time to talk with my child about marijuana or other drug use? Talking early and often with a young person about substance use establishes a positive foundation for ongoing conversations, Doth suggests. Waiting until an incident occurs or matters reach a boiling point before talking about substance use is typically less effective. "By modeling healthy behaviors, educating yourself and investing in your relationship with your young person, you can create continual and meaningful 'right time to talk' opportunities," she adds. How do I start the conversation about marijuana? Setting a tone of open, honest communication is the best way to approach the topic with your child. "Young people are more willing to open up in a nonjudgmental and emotionally safe environment," says Doth. You may choose to start the conversation with a simple statement like, "Let's talk about this." Then you can follow up with open-ended questions, such as: "Have you been offered marijuana?" "How do you feel about marijuana use?" "What do you see as the biggest risks of using, if any?" Initiating the conversation in such a welcoming way lets the young person know you are genuinely interested in listening to them. What are some possible signs of marijuana or other drug use? One of the tricky things about adolescent development is that early signs of problematic alcohol or other drug use mimic normal adolescent behavior—moodiness, opposition to parental rules, sleeping all day or hanging around with different friends. That's why it's important to ensure your lines of communication are open and your teen has clearly and repeatedly heard messages about the risks and consequences of alcohol and marijuana use. "It's easier to work toward solutions when a young person has the information they need to make healthy choices on the front end," explains Doth. That said, if you see warning signs and suspect drug use, schedule an assessment with a licensed professional. A behavioral health clinician can assess the seriousness of the problem and recommend the appropriate intervention or level of care. How can I encourage my child to seek help if a substance use problem develops? Negative consequences are often the motivating factor for seeking help. Being kicked off a sports team, for example. Or failing classes. Or even being hospitalized as a result of drug use. At the same time, when a young person realizes their substance use is problematic, fear of punishment can become an obstacle to reaching out to talk. They're already afraid of what that conversation is going to mean. So it's important for young people to know they can depend on you to listen and offer your support whenever they might need help, day or night. "You can offer reassurance by letting the young person know you will respond to them in a caring, supportive, 'let's-explore-the-options' way," says Doth. What if my child doesn't want help? First, remember that no human being has control over another's thoughts or behaviors. That said, as the parent or caregiver, you do have control over your own assets. You can control what happens in your home. For example, you can determine how your time, money and vehicles are used. "Although you can't control what happens outside of your home, you can follow through with the consequences that come as a result of a young person’s decisions," says Doth. "Allowing a young person to experience the natural consequences from school or their sports team or the authorities will help them reach a point where they want to change more quickly." Remember, too, that setting appropriate boundaries in your home will help you and your whole family avoid a lot of the pain, exhaustion and turmoil that can result when a young person has a substance use issue. What can I do to manage my own stress as a caregiver? Good question! When we're not taking care of ourselves as caregivers, we're more likely to feel stressed out, wiped out and overwhelmed. Effective self-care strategies can be as simple as getting enough sleep, eating well, taking time to relax (reading, walking, gardening, listening to music) or talking with friends. By taking care of your own physical, emotional, spiritual and social needs, you will be better equipped to take on the challenges that come your way as a caregiver.