Jake was shocked. It happened so fast. Nina was only ten years old. On the way home from school they stopped for some takeout Chinese food; that's when she told him.
"Dad, the eighth grade boys are smoking behind our school. It scares me because I have to walk by them to get to the bus and sometimes they'll yell at me and ask if I want to try some. And it smells like a skunk."
Do not freak, Jake told himself. Do not freak. He calmly took a bite of his beef and broccoli...and then he took a deep breath. He’d been around the block enough times to know that, if the boys were smoking something that smelled like a skunk to his ten-year-old daughter, they were smoking pot.
“That sounds really scary sweetie,” he said to his daughter. “You’re really brave to walk past them. It sounds like they’re smoking some stuff that isn’t good for them. Have you heard about marijuana?”
Nina was quiet for a minute. Then she said, “In our health class they talked to us about drugs. They sound scary.”
Jake took another deep breath. He just hadn’t expected this to happen so early. He wasn't ready, and was caught off guard.
“The thing is,” he said to his young daughter, “Using drugs can mess up your brain when you’re young. It’s like your brain is still growing and, when you use drugs, it doesn’t grow up right.” He’d read about the bad effects on young brains of smoking pot, and he didn’t want to overreact, but he wanted to communicate to Nina that using marijuana wouldn’t be good for her.
Jake was lucky because Nina wasn’t interested in trying drugs. They talked through strategies for getting to the bus without walking by the pot-smoking eighth graders, and how to say “No thank you” if she was offered drugs.
The important thing is to keep lines of communication open. Jake kept calm, supported Nina in wanting to stay away from drugs, and helped her come up with a concrete plan for avoiding the boys who were smoking. He talked with her about how, for some grown-ups, marijuana could be a medication, but for kids, it’s never a good idea.
Jake built trust by telling the truth. And Nina found a safer way to get to the bus.
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