Question: Our young adult is smoking pot when they are out with friends. We are very opposed to this but wonder how to handle it. What should we do?

Answer: 

In some ways, the transition between youth and young adulthood can be as challenging for parents as it is for their child. Figuring out where and how “supervision and influence” need to give way to “invitation and negotiation” can be a troubling season.

Not uncommon

You say that your child is active in behaviours that clearly do not align with the beliefs and values you hold as parents. While it’s likely that you taught these values to your children as they were growing up, we are in the midst of a highly permissive culture; it's not unusual for youth and young adults to explore and experiment with behaviours well outside parental boundaries.

That is a difficult reality for parents to grapple with, and can lead to power struggles between the generations as parents press to keep control, while now-adult children fight to maintain independence. Whether or not your young adult considers himself a Christian believer, a seeker, or has absolutely no interest in things of the Lord, it’s likely he doesn’t see any downside to using cannabis at this time, and won’t appreciate you pressing your position. Ultimately, now that he’s an adult, it’s not your choice to make.

Build on the positive

At the same time, you mention that your young adult’s use of marijuana is not happening in your home. That indicates a level of respect for you and the household rules that you may not have recognized, one that is a real positive! Build on this.

It would seem the time is ripe for discussion between parent and adult child, rather than defaulting to a “Yes, I will! No, you won’t!” conflict. Look to problem solve together (invite and negotiate).

For instance, if the odour coming into your home on his clothes and hair is a problem, ask him to shower and launder his clothes separately and immediately after he’s been smoking. This is a reasonable and respectful request, inviting the same level of response.

Make a plan

If your son has been getting high then driving home impaired, you may want to explore with him the variety of safe (and legal) alternatives he can set up beforehand, and seek a commitment to that plan. If he chooses not to stick with such a plan, the consequences (whether legal or material) will be his to experience, not yours.

When your young adult perceives your concerns as “help me understand your choice” rather than a rule to be broken or avoided, you will likely find a willing participant in the discussion and respectful negotiations of those things that are not absolutes. If not, perhaps it is time for your now-adult child to launch into their own household.


Some very good resources in this situation are: 

Love No Matter What by Brenda Garrison

Engaging Today's Prodigal by Carol Barnier

Parenting 20-Something Kids by Martha Pope-Gore

© 2017 Focus on the Family (Canada) Association. All rights reserved.

If you liked this article and would like to go deeper, we have some helpful resources below.

Our recommended resources

Free advice on marriage, parenting and Christian living delivered straight to your inbox

View comments ()