Expectations about high school prom night often bring anxiety for both parents and teens. Teens worry about finding a date, shedding pounds, spending money, and what to wear. They also worry about sex and alcohol, and so do their parents.
Prom night is a rite of passage and was intended to provide a fun opportunity for adolescents to learn healthy relationship and social skills. But for some teens the stakes are too high for prom night with inappropriate expectations about having sex, using drugs and alcohol, spending money, and achieving perfection.
The following tips can help you help your teens cope with prom anxiety, prevent disappointment, and stay safe.
- Avoid emphasizing a need to find a date for the prom. Tell teens that it can be just as much fun (if not more) to attend the prom with a friend or a group of friends.
- Downplay the importance of being pretty or handsome throughout the teen years. Focus more on being healthy, through good eating and exercise, rather than weight or clothing size. Help teens feel good about who they are, not just what they look like by giving them praise for accomplishments, good decisions, and showing good character and maturity. If they begin to obsess about dress size, or needing to look perfect for the prom, it may helpful to remind daughters that the images in teen magazines and the media are not real and are used to sell clothes and cosmetics.
- Do not feed the rigid, "all or nothing thinking" behind the idea that every detail of the prom must be "perfect". Ask teens what their happiest memories in life have been so far. Most likely they were during unplanned events.
- Show your teens how to keep a helpful sense of humor.
- Limit spending. Help teens keep the prom in perspective by helping them avoid expensive dresses, makeovers, dinners, and after parties. Girls can find pretty dresses at resale shops, borrow dresses, or sew their own. Consider helping your teens set a reasonable prom budget and help them make smart decisions about how to spend the money.
Prom Sex and Substance Use
- Develop a close relationship with your children early on. Talk with and listen to your children throughout their teen years. Talk with them about feelings, relationships, sex and drugs. Do not wait until prom night. Let them know that you care about them and what your values and expectations for them are. When your kids know that you care about them, they are more likely to take care about themselves.
- Talk with your teens about a reasonable curfew. It is dangerous for teens to be out late at night driving when it is dark, the bars have let out and teens are tired and inexperienced drivers. It is also dangerous for them to be attending poorly supervised parties late into the night and early morning, where there are opportunities for risky drinking and sex.
- Talk to other parents and make sure that if your child is attending a post prom party it is well supervised, there are no drugs or alcohol, and plans are made to make sure teens get home safely. Consider sharing pick-up and drop-off with other parents, or chip in for a taxi or limousine to transport your teens to and from the prom.
- Talk to your teens about healthy relationships and relationship violence. Teach your teens to show respect and consideration for members of the opposite sex and have them expect the same respect and consideration from them. Let them know that abusive behavior to a partner, whether in words or actions, is not okay. Remind them that spending money on a date does not entitle a person to sex or other favors.
- Teach your children to value and respect the differences among people, whether it is race, religion, or sexual orientation. All persons deserve respect, including lesbian, gay, or trans couples, who want to enjoy the prom.
- Set a good example by treating others in your family and community with respect and dignity.
- Work with other parents, teachers, school administrators, local businesses, and student leaders to form an alcohol free after prom party at school.
- Set a good example for your teens by using alcohol and other drugs responsibly. Show them that adults can have a good time without drugs and alcohol.
- Know where your kids are and whom they are with.
- When they walk out the door, tell your kids that you want them to have a good time, but to also be safe, because you love them.
- See "Drinking and Partying" for addition tips.
American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry (Sponsored by the Campaign for Americas Kids)
Talk With Kids (A national campaign sponsored by Children Now and the Kaiser Foundation)
Kids Health For Kids (Sponsored by the Nemours Foundation)
How to Talk to Your Kids About Really Important Things, 1994, by Charles E. Schaefer, Ph.D., and Theresa Foy DiGernonimo, M.Ed.
What Kids Need to Succeed: Proven, Practical Ways to Raise Good Kids, 1994 (revised 1998), by Peter L. Benson, PH.D., Judy Galbraith, M.A., and Pamela Espeland.
Ten Talks Parents Must Have with Their Children About Drugs & Choices, 2001, by Dominic Cappello and Xenia G. Becher, MSM, CSW.
Restoring the Teenage Soul: Nurturing Sound Hearts and Minds in a Confused Culture, 1999, by Margaret J. Meeker, M.D.
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