Three conversations Calgary parents need to start now

Thursday, September 20th, 2018

Easy tips for parents: How to start talking about cannabis legalization, healthy relationships and mental health with your kids.


As parents, you probably have a pretty good idea about what your kids will be learning in school this year. The curriculum is no secret.

But what your kids will learn outside of the curriculum – from friends, friend’s older siblings, or online – is just as important, and is often kept secret from parents.

Take a moment to think about your own adolescence – the need to fit in, the times you said “yes” because you felt you had to, and the friends you still think about that strayed down the wrong path.

So why, as parents, do we not spend more time preparing our kids for these difficult social challenges?

Whatever the reason – you feel awkward, you’re not an expert, your kid is on a good path – it’s still worth talking about.

The following is a list of three important conversations, we believe, every parent should have with their kids to prepare for the 2018/19 school year.

Included in the list are key messages (to help you feel confident in guiding the discussion) and conversation starter tips (you’re gonna rock it).


1| Have the Cannabis Chat

Surprisingly, it’s not likely to be a stranger that offers your child cannabis for the first time. The culprit is most often a good friend or someone they trust. Which is why parents need to get the correct information to their children first.

Where can parents get the accurate intel?

Lots of great information can be found on both Federal and Provincial Government websites and The City of Calgary provides info about consumption in Calgary.

If you aren’t a fan of research, parents can join a free Cannabis Education Presentation at YouthLink Calgary. New this year, our team is offering informative and engaging presentations to help parents and youth mentors have conversations with young people about responsible use and the new laws that will unfold in October 2018. You can also request a presentation to happen in your community or at your organization/business

Conversation starter tip: Ask your child, “What do you and your friends know about cannabis?”. This question can help you understand what information they already know and the source of this information.

A good follow-up question is, “Are their any reasons why you don’t want to try cannabis?” Their answers can provide a good foundation that you can reference during future conversations.


2| Mental Health and Safety in an Online World

The Happiness Talk  

If you’re 25+, you’ll remember saving exciting news until you found your bestie in the hallway the next morning. Today, kids can tap into an endless supply of updates and photos; tracking every detail of their friends lives throughout the evenings and weekends.

What might sound boring and senseless to us (or sounds a lot like adults on Facebook), can also create big challenges and difficult feelings for young people.

Comparisons to “perfect” lives, the pressure to consistently update and the incessant hunger for “likes” and validation can compile into a big heap of unhappiness.

A great question to ask your child is, “How much time do you want to spend on social media?” (keeping in mind that most sites require you to be 13+). It’s likely their response will be reasonable.

A good follow-up is, “What are other ways you want to spend your time, apart from technology?” This is a great opportunity to talk about hobbies, interests and personal goals.

These two questions not only help your child understand what fills their happy tank, it also provides parents with a positive reminder opportunity when you’re finding them glued to the screen too often.

Making a weekly schedule as a family each Monday is also a great way to ensure everyone’s happiness goals are being met. Planning is fun when you’re scheduling play dates, fort building and art sessions!


Make Sure Your Kids Are Safe 

When it comes to chats about online safety, a little can go a long way – so don’t be intimidated! Few people feel like an expert in this department. We’ve got you covered with a few starter tips.

(Be sure to check out this fantastic list of Canadian organizations that are focused on Online Safety (

Conversation starter tip: Ask your child “What’s the craziest thing you’ve seen online?”

Stay open-minded and accepting, and you may learn a lot. Asking follow-up questions such as, “Can you see any potential danger in doing that?” can spark positive conversations surrounding the do’s and don’ts.

A few starter subjects:

  • What information and photos are safe to share online
  • How to create a strong password
  • Security settings for phones and social media sites
  • Who we should we be friends with on social media (not strangers!)
  • Social media use and mental health (taking breaks, effects on self-esteem, the importance of human connection, the need for sleep and the impact on our happiness)


3| Healthy Relationships – Not the Birds and the Bees Talk  

Helping your child recognize traits that make a good friend and signs someone might be not worth the time can avoid heart-ache and help build a positive circle of friends.

Examples of healthy relationship characteristics

  • Truthfulness
  • Respect
  • Kindness
  • Good communication (talking and listening to each other)
  • Supports your decisions
  • Encourages you to reach your goals

Examples of unhealthy relationship characteristics

  • Pressures you to follow their decisions
  • Mean comments, lies or gossips
  • Judgment or criticizes your actions
  • Jealousy or possessiveness
  • Makes you feel left out


Conversation starter tip: Ask your child, “What do you think makes a good friend?” Allow them to list a few different characteristics and tell you why those characteristics are important to them.

Follow-up with, “What are things you notice in people that you don’t want to be friends with?” to start the chat about reflags to watch out for.

A fun activity is to create an art project that lists the traits your child looks for in a good friend. Encourage your child to reflect on the list when making new friendships or when they find themselves frequently feeling down after spending time with a certain friend.

Practicing these reflective skills can also benefit your child during the years of dating, workplace relationships and finding a life partner.


Keep it Going

As you may have expected, starting this type of open dialogue is only the first step.  Keeping the lines of communication open is important. Scheduling time at least once a month for a positive check-in can help you stay up to date with the challenges your kids are currently experiencing.

Final Tip: During these discussions, it’s important for parents to stay open-minded, honest (kids don’t want sugar coating!) and accepting. Communicate your expectations, but never shut a child down for being honest with you. A non-judgement approach can help your child feel understood and excited about on-going conversations. What’s important is that you know what’s going on in your child’s life and that you can offer support when your child needs it.