As a recent news article in the Guardian stated (read article) more and more parents are questioning the knee-jerk assumption that pot and parenting simply don't mix. I explored this same question in the 'parenting' chapter in Mindfully High - and I think it's important to continue discussing this key theme: does using marijuana make you a possibly-better parent, or a really terrible parent?
Due to lack of funding and lingering legalities, scientific research has not yet given us any clear answers regarding cannabis and its impact on family life. I did early NIH research on marijuana as it impacted family wellbeing in New York, and I've openly stated my personal position against children in general using pot regularly - because of both brain-development and also emotional-development concerns.
But as far as parents being responsible while high, the main issue seems to be not 'are you stoned while with your kids' but rather, 'are you being responsibly, mindfully high when parenting'?
Positives of Pot Parenting: The Guardian Newspaper article cited above asks "Can pot make you a better parent?" Exactly how can grass make you relate more effectively and compassionately with your kids? That answer is fairly clear now, because research has documented that being high makes people in general more 'present-moment focused', more compassionate, more patient, and also more 'fun and friendly' - and all of these qualities are parent-plus qualities.
Memory Issues: The downsides of parenting on pot? One of the issues is memory - parents might have good times with their kids but the next day, because of short-term memory loss, not remember much of the shared experience - and this would usually upset children. Kids do need their parents to be trustworthy, cognizant, and continuity-focused.
Our MindfullyHigh programs aim to help in this regard, by showing parents how to retain memory by staying more alert and reflective during a high experience, and also by pausing later to recall and reflect upon the experience. Hopefully this will help in general with the 'memory loss' problem - but it remains an important parenting issue.
Remember Your Parental Intent: Also, parents can benefit from establishing their activity-intent before getting high while tending to their kids' needs and activities. Getting responsibly high is a learned ability, it's not innate. Parents have assumed a host of responsibilities related to their children's wellbeing - and these responsibilities need to be consciously held in mind while high with children.
Gaining this learned sense of 'responsible-while-high' takes time, perhaps even a month or so of dedicated self-observation.
Parenting is supposed to be serious stuff - but in fact, most young kids would prefer if their parents were able to lighten up and play with them, rather than being so stiff and serious, anxious and duty-bound. Marijuana can definitely help in this regard.
Often parents use alcohol for similar reasons - but alcohol has a lot of downsides that interfere with parenting. Being mindful when drunk just doesn't work, whereas parents can learn to be mindfully high with weed while with their children.
Regarding parenting for kids over 7-8 years old, this is a different matter altogether, because the maturing children will want to engage intellectually with their parents - and although cannabis sometimes stimulates novel thoughts, grass often makes users appear dumb and silly rather than astute and philosophically logical.
Again, learning to stay grounded and centered and balanced and 'fully here' while high and parenting is the key - and I reiterate that 'learning' is key. There are situations where being high with your kids works - and other situations where it just doesn't work.
Also, children need boundaries, limits, security and confidence in their parents - and sometimes when high, we get too uninhibited and wild, and scare our kids. I consider this irresponsible. Over-indulgence and lack of inhibition can be rewarding in adult circles - but with our children, we need to be respectful of our kids' needs, and learn to be high responsibly with them - or stop getting high around them.
Grass Groups: One of the best ways to advance our cultural understanding of 'pot and parenting' is of course for parents to get together in small community groups and discuss this question openly with each other.
By sharing experiences and ideas and opportunities, and also sharing bad times, poor parenting, and inner uncertainties with other parents, we can resolve most of the 'pot and parenting' issues together.
In this spirit, we encourage parents to set up Grass Groups where this honest open sharing can happen. We're also aiming to start Facebook Groups with this theme - stay tuned.