By Carleton Kendrick Ed.M., LCSW
Parents Worry About:
High-school proms are very expensive affairs. When you add up the
prom dresses and tuxedos, prom tickets and pictures, stretch limos,
extravagant dining, flowers, and those special hairstyles and French
manicures, it's not unusual for the tab to top $1,000. A prom bill,
especially for seniors, may also include renting motel or hotel
rooms for all-night, post-prom partying. High school goes Hollywood.
parents, however, the primary prom-related concerns aren't financial.
Our biggest prom worries are the risky behaviors associated with
proms, most specifically driving under the influence of alcohol
and drugs and unsafe sex. Prom night always seems to be linked with
drunken-driving injuries and deaths, date rapes, pregnancies and
STDs. It's become the night where teens' poor judgment and dangerous
choices have become institutionalized. Think back to your own proms.
While much more expensive and self-indulgent than yours were, the
hopes, disappointments, joys and dangers associated with proms have
remained essentially the same.
following tips may ease your prom anxieties, while helping to keep
your kids as safe as possible:
Prom Safety Tips
The Talk -- Tell your children that you want them to have a wonderful,
memorable prom. Keep that wish as a central focus. They need to
give you their complete itinerary for the evening, including whom
they will be with, where they'll be going after the prom and the
phone numbers where you can contact them. "We'll just be driving
around" is not an acceptable response. Come to a fair decision
on a curfew, based upon your children's past level of responsibility
in this area. Express your concerns about their health and safety
and explain to them why prom night makes it more difficult to make
safe and smart decisions. Don't be vague -- discuss drinking, drugging,
driving under the influence, and sex. Ask them how they plan to
keep safe and avoid actions they will regret. Reinforce your belief
in their character and in their ability to act responsibly.
The Ride -- If they're not driving themselves, you must know
who'll be driving them. Regardless of how many times you have talked
about the dangers of driving under the influence of alcohol and
drugs, emphasize that these dangers are particularly high on prom
night. Your children cannot drink or take drugs and drive. They
also must be driven by someone who has not drunk alcohol or taken
drugs. You need their promise on these rules. These rules are non-negotiable.
The Connection -- If your children are not returning home
right after the prom, you need to be able to contact them at all
times until they return home. You also need to be reachable at all
times as well. There can be no doubt where your kids will be and
with whom throughout the evening and morning. If they're going to
other kids' houses after the prom, check ahead of time with these
children's parents. You also have a right and a responsibility to
ask if these parents are going to allow drinking in their homes.
Many parents believe that as long as they "take keys"
in a situation like this that underage drinking is permissible in
their houses. You must answer the question, "Do I want my kids
at after-prom parties where parents aren't present?" Post-prom,
parent-child check-in calls make sense. Establish a couple of mandatory
call-in times with your kids. You might consider giving cell phones
to your kids for the evening, thereby establishing a guaranteed
The Offer -- Give your children the unconditional option
of calling you at any time for help or advice. That includes picking
them up at any time of day or night, with a promise not to shame
or humiliate them in front of others. Assure them that you always
welcome being part of their making smart and safe decisions. This
unconditional offer of help and advice should be an outstanding
offer throughout their lives.
Kendrick, Ed.M.,LCSW received his undergraduate and graduate degrees
from Harvard University and is a licensed psychotherapist. He offers
individualized personal coaching for parents of adolescents at connectwithyourteen.com.
Kendrick has been named by Family PC magazine as the best Internet
expert on parenting teens.
information presented on this site is intended solely as a general
educational aid, and is neither medical nor healthcare advice for
any individual problem, nor a substitute for medical or other professional
advice and services from a qualified healthcare provider familiar
with your unique circumstances. Always seek the advice of your physician
or other qualified healthcare professional regarding any medical
condition and before starting any new treatment.