What is the norm?

From the desk of the publisher Robin Goldsworthy

Raising children we’ve all heard it: “But everyone is allowed to do it.” The infamous words our children fling at us to get us to let them do something that we instinctively know we shouldn’t permit. The plea, however, begs the questions: “Is everyone allowed to do it?” and “What is the norm?”

Last Saturday I was invited to attend a meeting of the CV Drug and Alcohol Prevention Coalition. Like most of you, I’ve wondered what the coalition has been up to of late. I know that the board has been looking for a new executive director and on Saturday I was introduced to him.

David Marquez has a rich background in the non-profit sector and will bring experience to the Coalition that will help direct its efforts – some of those efforts instructed by the federal grant that the organization received. David will be the guest at the next Coffee with the COPPS event from 8:00 a.m. to 10:00 a.m. on Friday, Feb. 11 at Everest Restaurant, 3826 Foothill Blvd. in La Crescenta.

Also at the Coalition meeting was Mike Brownlee who has extensive experience working with similar coalitions throughout the nation, helping them get established and identifying how each community deals with its particular issues. One of the questions he posed to us was what is the norm for drug and alcohol use in our homes and in the community. What this question immediately brought to the forefront is that the standards we set in our home are not mirrored in everyone’s home.

For anyone who is concerned about substance abuse, especially by our young people, this question demands examination.

Mike relayed his own experiences growing up. One of two sons along with five sisters, it was common for either he or his brother as youngsters to be offered the first swig of a beer that was brought to their dad. This was the “norm” in his house. In my house no one is given permission to drink unless they’re over 21. It’s just the way it is. It is the “norm” in my house.

But I’ve learned over the years that my rules do not extend beyond my front door. There are some parents in our community that subscribe to the theory that, “If my kid is going to drink, he’s going to do it with me.” There are also parents who get high with their kids. And while my rules are fine and dandy for me, I want to consider how to make it easier for my kids to say no when offered drugs or alcohol by their friends.

One thing I did was sign my son up for random drug testing at CVHS. Do I think he does drugs? No. However, it’s much easier for him to say no to anyone who might offer him drugs when he tells them he gets randomly tested at school and will get kicked off the basketball team (not to mention what would happen to him at home) if he tested positive.

Other suggestions include checking out places in your house where kids might get high or drunk while you’re home – the bathroom and garage for example. Put a lock on the liquor cabinet. Gather up all prescription drugs in the house and put them under lock and key.

Also, knowing that your norm may not be everyone’s norm, call parents when your kid says he’s going to a party. I must confess that since my son has started driving I don’t track his whereabouts as much as I used to. We need to ask our kids where they’re going – and don’t accept “Out” as an answer.

In the next several months the Coalition is going to examine existing public policies and offer directives for parents, like those mentioned above, and for the community. These will include examining current policies in place in the school district and in our schools individually.

We need to decide what is acceptable behavior in our homes and in our community and to implement it so it becomes the “norm.”