Packing up to head out on an outdoor ed Canyonlands trip with my ten year old, I contemplated the magnificently careless leap I had just made in my life. Two years ago I left AspenRealLife to dive into the “real” world of making money and landed a job at an Aspen digital marketing firm. I had just given my notice and I was ready to disconnect completely for two weeks.
It was a good decision, to go outside of myself and be around other intelligent, creative people and learn the art of digital marketing and social media to a higher degree. Leaving my life of community and travel immersion behind, I gathered my strengths and began creating content and campaigns for clients. It felt good to apply my talents to others to help their businesses thrive and I was very happy to receive that monthly paycheck and feed off of the positive energy that buzzed around our office.
Within those two years, our rambunctious lanky puppy dog of a boy became a full fledged teenager soaring into High School like a gorgeous, scaly charcoal black dragon with long eyelashes and started hanging around other dragons puffing out sparks of fire and herbal scented smoke rings. Thus began my inner mantra, #shutthisshitdown (scream it out loud, it feels good), a phrase I heard during one of my Sirius comic relief sprints with comedian Demetri Martin, “People Watching”. This he screamed after stepping on a lego on the floor.
So what’s it like? Having a 15 year old boy cut from the same cloth as his mother only the oldest of three boys instead of the youngest of three girls…and more evolved, smarter, braver and more curious? Challenging….and informative!
Way back in 2011 US News reported a study showing that 90 percent of Americans who are addicted to tobacco, alcohol or other substances started smoking, drinking or using drugs before they were 18 years old.
The study also found that one-quarter of Americans who began using any addictive substance before age 18 are addicted, compared with one in 25 Americans who started using an addictive substance when they were 21 or older.
They said their findings show that adolescence is the most important period of life for the start of substance abuse and its consequences.
There has been so much to learn about raising a teenaged boy in a legalized state and I can tell you that I am now completely empowered to this thing right and it begins every morning when this American Massachusetts Princess who married a badass Denver boy mentally dons her stetson, chaps and spurs and rides bronco style, all the while chanting her inner mantra in preparation for this new wild west. Let it be known that there’s a new mommy sheriff in town.
I’m gathering my posse by roping in parents to my Valley for Drug Prevention Parent to Parent Alliance, a valley-wide initiative to bring together parents, schools and social services agencies to change the climate of substance use in our community, Colorado, and beyond. Knowing that changes start in the home, the Parent to Parent Alliance is about educating and empowering parents to raise substance-free youth and open the lines of communication with other parents to provide a network of support.
It’s not easy to fully understand how to become a more mindful parent but if I have learned nothing else, it is that it is NOT a rite of passage for teens to explore this extremely strong gateway drug while their brains are still developing. Now there is no excuse to be unmindful as scientific evidence shows that frequent marijuana use can have a significant negative effect on the brains of teenagers and young adults, including cognitive decline, poor attention and memory, and decreased IQ, according to psychologists discussing public health implications of marijuana legalization at the American Psychological Association’s 122nd Annual Convention.
“It needs to be emphasized that regular cannabis use, which we consider once a week, is not safe and may result in addiction and neurocognitive damage, especially in youth,” said Krista Lisdahl, PhD, director of the brain imaging and neuropsychology lab at University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.
“Well we did it back then,” is a comment I hear often. And while that may be true, we didn’t have the scientific evidence back then that we do now. Now there is no excuse to not be a mindful parent and just as you protected your toddlers from getting too close to the fire, it is when children become teenagers where the real parenting begins. The fire is still there, but with far more dangerous consequences.
I know I have a lot of obstacles to face and it is going to take me years to move beyond the tip of the iceberg when parenting teens in this town and this state but my husband and I have progressed by leaps and bounds and have seen our son grow and take responsibility for his life. As parents, we set the parameters and make our stance on substance abuse absolutely clear, and teach him that he is the one who needs to be accountable for his actions and his future.
THREE HELPFUL TIPS FOR RAISING A TEEN:
NEED MORE HELP RAISING YOUR TEEN? See Parenting Tips.
** Let it be known that where my husband and I once were very confused on how to raise a teen and how it is and always will be a work in progress, we found guidance from an incredible man, Joel Karr, LCSW RRT Counselor. Joel provides a framework for parenting, no matter the age of the child. His counseling is counter intuitive, quite different from everything we have learned in parenting classes, simply complex. Email him, he’ll help you to raise a wonderful teenager: firstname.lastname@example.org
*** To learn more about how to support my efforts to educate parents on mindful parenting contact me at: email@example.com