It might feel like prom is ages away — after all, it’s hardly December — but blink, and you’ll be watching your teen be whisked away to one of their last high school dances. Prom is the most magical night most teens experience, full of twinkling lights, tender music, and extravagant fashion. However, at most schools, prom is also a risk-filled event, and unless you prepare your teen properly, they could be waltzing into a night of danger.
The worst thing you can do is prohibit your teen from attending prom, but you also shouldn’t give your teen complete freedom for the whole night. Before it’s too late, you and your teen should work together to build a night of fun and fantasy — that doesn’t put anyone in harm’s way.
Understand Your Teen’s Point of View
To your teen, prom is so much more than a dance. It is one of the first gleaming gates to adulthood; it is a rite of passage that signals the looming end of adolescence and the beginning of greater responsibility and authority. Even those who choose not to attend prom tend to see the event as a significant milestone — though one they would rather not participate in.
For those teens experiencing young love, prom is often seen as the culmination of their relationship. Prom dates must demonstrate their commitment to one another with elaborate prom-posals, matching outfits, generous gifts, and other outrageous displays of affection. The entire prom season is a make-or-break event that will either solidify their commitment to one another or see the relationship crumble before college.
Finally, plenty of teens see prom as their last great adventure. After-prom parties tend to be the wildest of all because so many teens are eager to try risky substances or behaviors. Before high school ends and college begins, teens become desperate to accrue as many life experiences as possible — though they don’t realize that doing so might put their future at risk.
As a parent, you understand that the end of high school is not the end of life; if anything, it is just the beginning. Your teen doesn’t have your perspective, and belittling your teen’s experience won’t help them see sense. Instead of immediately dismissing your teen’s thoughts and feelings, you should listen sympathetically and communicate effectively.
Communicate Your Parental Fears
Undoubtedly, the reason you are here, reading this post, is because you are nervous. For many of the reasons listed above, you might suspect your teen will make one or several bad decisions on prom night. Under the influence of the sparkly lights, slow music, peer pressure, young love, and raging hormones, your teen could have sex, try drugs or alcohol, drive recklessly, or do something unimaginably worse that puts their college careers — or their lives — in jeopardy.
The first thing you need to realize is that fighting with your teen over prom is not an effective way to thwart these dangers. If anything, it will make your teen more eager to engage in risky activities as a way of establishing their autonomy and adulthood. A better tactic is to remain calm and cool while you have a conversation with your teen about your fears. As much as possible, you a should provide reasons behind your worries, perhaps providing personal anecdotes of times you or other loved ones got in serious trouble due to risky choices. You should avoid lecturing, which will make your teen tune out; instead, you should keep them engaged with questions about their ideas, interests, or inclinations about prom night. Ideally, at the end of the discussion, both of you will know more about the other’s perspective and have guidelines and plans that keep everyone relaxed and secure.
Work Together to Make Prom Safe
If you are uncertain how to direct this conversation — or you feel certain that you will forget to bring up important issues — here are a few talking points to keep your discussion on track:
- Rules of conduct. Most schools have strict rules regarding behavior at prom, and you should review these rules with your teen. You might also add a few rules of your own — but you should have your teen’s complete consent first, or else your rules will be broken.
- Cost. Prom tends to be an extravagant event, but you probably don’t want to drain your savings. You should help your teen find cheap prom dresses or tuxes and other affordable options to keep costs low.
- Transportation. Because drugs and drink aren’t uncommon at prom, you should know exactly how your teen is getting from place to place.
- Prom group. Few teens go to prom with just their date. You should have the names and contact information of every member of your teen’s prom party in case you can’t get ahold of your teen during the night.
- Check-in times. You shouldn’t be pestering your teen all night long. Instead, your teen should know to text or call at strategic times during the night, like when they leave the dance, when they reach a new party, or when they are about to head home.