Does the thought of your child going to prom make you feel uneasy? If so, you are not alone.
Dresses, tux rentals, dinner and after parties are all fun parts of the planning process. However, as parents, we know there is more to this big night than what is on the surface.
Curfew, transportation and parties are sources of arguments for many teens and their parents on a normal day. Add in the excitement of prom, limos and after-prom parties and tempers may flare. Fortunately there are steps you can take to bridge the gap between you and your teen while preparing them for the big day.
How can you avoid the drama?
Teens are pushing for their independence while parents are standing firm due to fear of what could happen. Talking with your teen before the big night will help everyone feel more comfortable and enjoy the prom night experience. Try these 3 steps to avoiding the parent/teen drama of prom night…
1. Get your teen involved in the conversation
Use the "discuss, not dictate" approach to engage your child in a cooperative conversation.
Set aside a specific time to talk
Share your concerns
Be open to listening without being critical (listen to learn, not to lecture!)
Work together to brainstorm ways that your child can feel independent while still letting you know they’re safe (i.e., a quick text message at an agreed upon time)
Be willing to truly listen to your teen and ask questions with the goal of solving conflicts together. If plans include being at someone else’s home, make it clear that you’ll be in contact with the parents to confirm they’ll actually be at home and "on duty."
When speaking with the other parent, ask very specific questions regarding supervision and house rules. Yes, I'm encouraging you to be that parent.
2. Prepare your teen to make safe choices
For many teens, prom night is a night of many firsts, which means they will have decisions to make. Unfortunately, the part of the brain which is used for decision making has yet to fully develop (this happens around the age of 24).
Parents, even if you have had drug, alcohol and sex discussions already, don’t miss opportunity to reaffirm family values and expectations.
Clearly define family rules and expectations regarding drugs and alcohol use
Decide on consequences and discuss them with your teen prior to prom (proactive parenting is most effective!). This also puts the responsibility on the teen -- you chose the behavior, you also chose the consequence -- if something does happen.
Work with your teen to develop an “out” if he is in a bad situation
Help your teen come up with excuses as to why he can’t use drugs or drink (“Coach will kick me off the team” or “My parents will take my car for a month”). Help them to surround themselves with other friends who also choose to stay sober, it relieves the peer pressure.
Develop an “exit” plan – your teen can text you and you’ll pick them up no matter what (add a “no immediate lecture” guarantee and stick to it!). If your teen makes that call to you, acknowledge the hard choice he made and how proud you are that he reached out for help.
Follow through on consequences if the situation arises (this sets a precedence for future situations for not only your teen, but their siblings and their friends).
3. Talk about it all
We know many teens feel that prom night is “the night” for the physical side of relationships to be taken a step (or many steps) further. As parents, we can be, and need to be, more influential than their peers and social media messaging.
If you haven’t had sex talks with your child… start RIGHT NOW. If you have had these talks for years, it is still necessary to return to this subject. Special events like prom can have teens feeling they are ready for, or they might be pressured into making, life changing decisions.
Many of the bullet points listed above regarding making safe choices apply here. Even though you may feel awkward, and your teen may reject your efforts in this discussion, you need to get past it and share your concerns.
Even with modern media’s depiction of teens as hormone driven and immature, there are many who are choosing to wait and who are encouraging their peers to wait too!
Many teens are also making prom easier on themselves by going with a group of friends, or going to the dance with a friend so they can enjoy themselves without the pressures of a date.
Many schools also offer an “after hours” party at a local site (somewhere with activities for the kids to have fun (i.e., rock climbing walls or bowling) so the kids have a safe choice after the dance. These are supervised and school sanctioned (which means the same rules regarding appropriate behavior extends to the after prom site as well).
Now that you have these tools at hand, you’ll be ready. Your child is reaching another milestone on his or her journey to adulthood, so get out those cameras and enjoy the moment!
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Photo by Taiana Martinez (Tai's Captures) on Unsplash