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damage control

Part of cannabis and your kids

The question

My son has come into a crowd of weed smokers and now suddenly his grades have tanked and he is sullen and dejected and also quite combative. I don’t know what to do. Is there any advice you could give me?

We rented a bug-infested house. How do we get out?

A fling caused a pregnancy and I’m not ready to be a dad. What can I do?

Spoiled kids are the worst but don’t give up, grandparents, because you have a lot of wisdom to offer

The answer

I should state up front that I feel strongly about this and not everyone will agree with what I have to say.

Also that my statements are uttered through a reefer-scented cloud of hypocrisy. I smoked a lot of weed in high school. I fell off my chair in French class once, I was so high and giggling.

I also smoked a lot in college. Nothing to me was more sublime and if I may say so (corny I know) godlike than having a couple of hits from the bong and playing disc (what civilians call Frisbee) on campus in the verdant hills of Vermont, twirling and prancing about while all the girls (at least in my imagination) looked on full of admiration and attraction.

But I lost my taste for it eventually, thank God. It so happens I did well in university, but less so in high school. Might I have gone to a better university had I not smoked weed in H.S.? Harvard, say, or Yale, or the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (my father’s alma mater)?

I’ll never know. What I do know, or let’s say what I deeply feel, now that I am the overseer of teenagers myself, is that pot-smoking hurts them.

It undermines their motivation. I’ve seen it in adults, too. You detach from your problems. The philosopher Lao Tzu, the reputed founder of Taoism in the sixth-century BC, said: “The sage, because he confronts all his problems, never has any.”

Kind of an odd way to put it, but it is also among the many mottos of Damage Control.

The comedian Dave Chappelle has a bit about pot saying it’s a “background substance. ... You can still function. You ain’t crisp, but you can still function.”

But I think “ain’t crisp” is truly the operative phrase/mot juste. And I do not agree – and, again in a cloud of hypocrisy, I’ve had the chance to observe teenagers (my own and their friends) – that it’s a “background substance.” In my view, they become very far from “crisp.” It affects their work and how they deal with people, including their parents – and as you hinted, they become sullen and their whole personality changes.

So, what can you do? Well, that’s where it obviously becomes trickier. The thing about pot, as opposed to, say, alcohol, is it’s a bit easier to hide the fact you’re consuming it.

As a sidebar, I will say my theory is that the reason teens smoke pot is that all creatures on the planet crave intoxicants but teens do not have access to alcohol.

A second sidebar, which I guess I’ve been building up to: I, personally, and it’s just one man’s opinion, am (again: in a cloud of reefer-tinted hypocrisy) most vigorously and vociferously opposed to the legalization of this substance. Sends the wrong message to the youth of today, I feel. “Hey, pot is cool.”

As to what you should do? I think just talk to your kid. Parent, if I may use that as a verb. What I’ve found as a parent over time is you might say something and it seems to have no effect or is even angrily repudiated.

But over time, it sinks in. So just say what you have to say, e.g. “Weed undermines your ambition, detaches you from your problems, you should maybe lay off.”

I mean, use your own words. And you may get some pushback. But “pushback” is par for the course when it comes to parenthood. Just keep a steady hand on the tiller and tell yourself you did the best you could. The rest is up to your kid.

Are you in a sticky situation? Send your dilemmas to damage@globeandmail.com. Please keep your submissions to 150 words and include a daytime contact number so we can follow up with any queries.

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