Using Substances while Parenting

Using substances while parenting may affect your ability to safely take care of your baby or child. People who use either regulated or unregulated substances can still be loving and responsible parents. Make sure one parent or caregiver has not used any substances while caring for children. For example, you can stager your substance use as an effective parenting strategy.

If you are using substances it can affect your parenting by:

  • altering your perception
  • slowing your reaction time
  • making you drowsy/sleepy

As a result:

  • you may miss your child’s cues for hunger, comfort or attention.
  • you may not be able to make good decisions.

Some things to think about if you are using cannabis while parenting is:

  • second-hand smoke
  • cannabis can cause your child to become ill.
  • cannabis can cause your child to become less alert.

Role modeling

As a parent, you are trying to do the best you can for your child. Your child's relationship with you is key to their health, development, and well-being. Your alcohol, cannabis or other drug use can impact your child as well as yourself.

Children who see their parents under the influence of alcohol and other drugs are more likely to:

  • experience stress,
  • develop social, emotional and behavioural problems,
  • use substances regularly, or
  • have increased us of alcohol, cannabis or drugs in the future.

Safe storage

Make sure you properly store and dispose of alcohol, cannabis products or other drugs in a place that is not easily visible and accessible by children or pets.

Depending upon the age of your children, you may put different measures in place when storing alcohol.  Read more information on how to secure your medications at home. 

Edible cannabis products often look like non-cannabis treats such as chocolate, brownies and gummies. Ensure cannabis products including plants are securely stored away from children, youth and pets to prevent unintended cannabis poisoning.

Unintentional cannabis poisoning in children

When someone uses cannabis they can experience impaired attention, decision-making, and memory which can increase the risk for unsafe storage and disposal of cannabis products.

Common signs of cannabis toxicity in children include (but are not limited to):

  • a sudden onset of sleepiness or unresponsiveness
  • loss of muscle tone, muscle control and coordination
  • dilated pupils
  • fast and/or irregular heart beat
  • slow breathing

Unintentional cannabis poisoning in young children has been shown to increase significantly after legalization of cannabis.

Strategies to prevent unintended cannabis poisonings in children:

  • Make sure you dispose of all unused cannabis and cannabis-related products.
  • If you use cannabis by smoking or using it in vaporizers, use outside to avoid exposure to second-hand smoke and vape.
  • Use out of sight of children, particularly when using edible forms of cannabis, which may be mistaken for regular food or drink items.
  • Ensure your cannabis is kept in a child-resistant package and placed in a locked area out of reach and out of sight of children.
  • If you grow cannabis plants at home, create a dedicated grow space with controlled access (i.e., strong locks and other safeguards such as an alarm).
  • If you think a child has eaten cannabis or products that contain cannabis seek medical attention right away.

To report a poisoning or for information call the Ontario Poison Centre at 1-800-268-9017.

For more information read the Ontario Poison Centre’s information on Cannabis and Kids.

Safe driving and riding

Cannabis, alcohol and drug use alters the skills you need to drive such as quick thinking, decision-making, reaction time, and concentration. Never drive impaired or get in a car with an impaired driver. Plan a safe ride with a friend, use public transportation (Grand River Transit), taxi, or a ride sharing service (i.e. Lyft, Uber).

For more information: Driving while impaired by alcohol or drugs -

Learn more about the Myths and Facts of Impaired Driving from the Ministry of Transportation.

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