Dr. Gabor Maté said it best, “It is not so much what happens to us but how we make sense of it.” Parenting Coach Jenn Abbatiello believes that helping our kids make sense of their feelings and what’s going on is one of the best strategies to deal with anxious emotions. Parenting and the stigma surrounding cannabis is a topic she addresses.
We had the pleasure of meeting with Jenn from Your Transformed Family to discuss the stigma surrounding cannabis use, which is especially acute for mothers who admit using cannabis.
"Cannabis is misunderstood. The perception is if you use it, you’re a stoner. But the same doesn’t hold true if you drink alcohol. No one calls you an alcoholic, even if you say, “man I need a drink right now.” Acknowledging through education the benefits of using cannabis and comparing it to other alternatives for managing stress and anxiety and how that contributes to your performance as a parent has been helpful for me."
What is the most important message you try to convey to parents?
It’s not about being a perfect parent, no one is a perfect parent, it is about doing the best we can and getting support along the way when we are having a hard time. With awareness and support, change is possible.
How do you think parental anxiety effects children?
I feel a bit anxious answering this question because parents carry enough guilt. That said, I do notice, even in our home, when we are going through a particularly stressful time, the kid’s behaviour is impacted. If, for example, you are anxious about your child getting hurt and are following them around constantly saying “be careful,” some kids internalize those feelings and start to be cautious kids. They see the world through the lens of the parents.
How we talk to our kids about what is going on in the world right now, we can unintentionally pass on our own anxiousness. For example, I work with some families who say their kids are very anxious and worry about dying and their parents dying, etc. We are living in a time where the media is full of stories of COVID deaths, daily counts on cases, war – some kids have had first hand experience with someone close to them dying from COVID. Though I am not a trained psychologist and its important to seek medical help if needed, I do help families talk to their kids about their anxious feelings. If we just suppress them and don’t work through them or make sense of them, they can escalate. I love the quote by Gabor Mate “It’s not so much what happens to us but how we make sense of it.” Helping our kids make sense of their feelings and what’s going on is one of the best strategies to deal with anxious emotions.
In our home, we do our best not to expose our kids to the news, especially around COVID, we talk to them a lot about what is going on and explain what mommy and daddy are doing to help keep them stay safe. We ask them what is worrying them, we empathize and validate those feelings and help them work through them.
In what ways you do think cannabis compliments parenting?
Gosh, parenting is one of the hardest jobs we will ever have, and it can be extremely stressful. I think cannabis can help manage some of that stress. Parenting and the stigma surrounding cannabis is something I talk a lot about.
We need to be careful with projecting extremes. For example, I remember when I was nursing – and you always read that you shouldn’t drink while nursing – I was talking to my doctor about it and she said “they share that for the minority of mothers who will be completely wasted and pass out and can drop their child or be unsafe.” I feel it is the same with cannabis, I’m not suggesting parents get stoned. The reason education is needed is to better understand the right dosing and options for consumption for what you are trying to achieve. How to consume responsibly. I personally am not comfortable smoking weed in front of my kids but am fine having a cannabis cocktail or other edible. We don’t judge people that drink wine. It’s the same thing. Except without the hangover.
What is the number one question parents come to you with?
How can I stop yelling and get my kids to listen!
“Stigma stalks every discussion about cannabis use, and it is especially acute for mothers who admit using cannabis.” – What are your thoughts on this topic?
Cannabis is misunderstood. The perception is if you use it, you’re a stoner. But the same doesn’t hold true if you drink alcohol. No one calls you an alcoholic, even if you say, “man I need a drink right now.” Acknowledging through education the benefits of using cannabis and comparing it to other alternatives for managing stress and anxiety and how that contributes to your performance as a parent has been helpful for me. I feel that now that there are more options for consuming cannabis, like capsules, beverages, edibles for example that it will become more mainstream. Cannabis cocktails are a great example. What I always explain to the parents I work with is if your cup isn’t full and you aren’t in a good place, it is really hard to parent the way you want. Becoming the parent we want to be starts with taking care of ourselves so if cannabis is part of that self-care there is no judgement.
Parenting is so scrutinized on its own. From breastfeeding to diet to curfews, exposure to certain tv shows, sleep overs, ect. What is your advice for dealing with this? Could this be applied in dealing with parenting and the stigma surrounding cannabis?
What we need to remember is that EVERYONE has an opinion. Ultimately some of those people’s opinions we value and others we don’t. We need to learn to trust ourselves and when we are faced with differing opinions, go inside instead of out to figure out what makes sense for you. We are all different, our kids are all different. There is no one size fits all. Cannabis might be a good choice for me, maybe it isn’t for another mom or dad and that’s ok. Learning to respect one another despite our differences is so important and this is something we try to instill in our children.
Join the conversation on the Yes We Cann Parent Facebook Group here.
Read @JohnOldschool's story on cannabis and parenting here.