Quitting weed: Negotiating help-seeking with your child

Find out how to positively influence your child to start thinking about quitting weed – without the tears!

Negotiating help-seeking with your child

Asking for help can be the toughest step of all

As with any drug, heavy cannabis use can have an impact on a user’s life – whether it’s their mood, motivation, finances, relationships or a variety of other areas. Sometimes as their support network – parents, friends, teachers – we get frustrated because we think they are blind to what is really going on. But maybe not. For some people, asking for help – even if they know on some level that they need it – can be the hardest step to take on the road to recovery. Admitting they need a leg-up – that they can’t do it on their own or they don’t have it under control – can sometimes be really challenging.

Often when we see this, especially as a parent, it can be easy to step in and try to solve all our children’s problems for them – even if they haven’t asked us to. Though it may seem easy and less painful or frustrating, this type of parental ‘interference’ can be a stumbling block on the road to recovery, particularly for independence-seeking adolescents, so it may not be the best approach to finding a solution to the problem at-hand.

Encouraging your child (family member or friend) to recognise they need help themselves, and then supporting them in seeking help, is a far more fruitful way of getting the results you want for your loved one. It may take time and it may test your patience, but quitting or cutting down or even just getting some extra support has to be their choice or it may not stick.

If weed use or addiction has become a problem for your teenager it can feel overwhelming dealing with something that is both illegal and potentially harmful for their physical and mental health. There are a number of practical ways you can help them start recognising the changes within themselves, as well as developing motivation to get some help if needed.

Motivational interviewing – encouraging your teenager to consider quitting weed

Motivational Interviewing is a technique used by many drug and alcohol counsellors that focuses on encouraging the drug user to find internal motivation to change. This is done by listening reflectively and helping them explore the pros and cons of their drug use. This helps the person feel free to explore the reasons they use drugs without fear of judgement as well as come to a conclusion about whether it is providing real benefit to their life. You will find using this style of communication with your child is far more effective than a more authoritarian or draconian approach. So how can you do this with your teenager? Here are some examples of conversations that you could try with your child.

Reflective listening

Parent: “Can you help me understand why you use marijuana?”

Teenager: “I dunno, it just helps me relax, school’s really stressful at the moment with exams and stuff – it makes me less worried about things.”

Parent: “It sounds like you’re feeling really anxious – exam time can be hard and maybe drugs seem to help calm you down. Are you having any trouble sleeping?”

Teenager: “Yeah, that’s the other thing, unless I smoke before bed I just lie there awake for ages stressing out. Weed helps me wind down and get to sleep.”

Parent: “OK, so what you’re saying is that using marijuana is helping you deal with your anxiety about school and it’s also helping you get to sleep.”

Exploring the pros and cons of their addiction to weed

Parent: “So I guess what you’re saying is that marijuana is helping you out with your stress levels and trouble sleeping – but is there anything you think it’s not exactly helping you with? I’ve noticed you have a pretty bad cough these days.”

Teenager: “Yeah I can’t seem to shake it – I suppose it could be from the weed, like smoker’s cough maybe. I have tried to cut down, but whenever I do I get really anxious and can’t sleep – it kind of sucks I guess.”

Parent: “So you’re in two minds about it? You want to try but it seems really hard? It helps you sleep and feel more relaxed but it’s also giving you a bad cough and setting off your anxiety when you try to cut down. Maybe the anxiety is just coming from withdrawals and will pass if you give it time? Do you think it’s causing you more hassles than it’s worth?”

Teenager: “Yeah maybe, but I’m kind of worried that if I quit I won’t have anything to help me relax – it’s hard.”

Parent: “It sounds hard – do you think you might be ready to start thinking about getting some help to quit? We could go to the doctor together and ask about other ways to deal with your anxiety and maybe get some info on quitting for when you’re ready.”

So you get the idea – there’s a whole lot more advice and free resources on the NCPIC website to help you navigate this tricky area with your teenager/friend/student – check out our Get Help page, call our Cannabis Information and Helpline on 1800 304050 or have a look at our MAKINGtheLINK videos that demonstrate helpful ways of communicating with your child.

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