Written by Nelson Branco MD and Nell Branco, MPH, LCSW
The prom is a time to dress up for a fancy event planned just for them. Kids get to celebrate their friendships and the years they have spent together. We all have memories (good, bad or indifferent) from our high school years, and I’ll bet the prom picture is the first one grandma whips out when she’s trying to embarrass you with your kids.
High school juniors and seniors are young adults, and prom is another opportunity to build trust and foster their ability to be self-reliant. It’s also a good opportunity for parents to communicate clearly about your expectations. Here is a list of issues and suggestions for making prom night stress-free, safe and fun for all.
Planning for prom may be stressful or frustrating for your teen.
Try to be open and supportive through the ups and downs. There may be a logistical or social aspect of the prom that is worrying your son or daughter. Let them problem solve, using you as sounding board, but don’t try to fix it for them.
Don’t side-step the topic of drugs, alcohol, and safe sex.
If you have reasons to be concerned about these issues, bring them up. The emphasis should be on making responsible decisions in addition to having fun.
Discuss rules for the prom; your own rules, the school rules, and consequences for breaking them.
The goal is not to lecture. You want to have a discussion to set positive expectations for a fun and safe night. Tell your teen that you trust their ability to made good plans and reasonable decisions, and that you know they want the night to go well. Begin the conversation with “I know we’ve discussed this before…” or “I know you know this already but I think it is a good idea to review ….”
Make a plan with your teen that you can both stick to.
You might agree to one phone call check-in vs. multiple calls or texts through the night. For older, more independent students a check-in may not be necessary.
Ask who they are going to be with.
It’s reassuring to know your son or daughter’s date, and if they plan to go with a group of students you already know. Have the name and cell phone of one other person in the group as a backup contact.
If your teen is going to a pre-prom or after party, find out who is hosting and who is supervising.
You should feel free to talk to those parents beforehand if you have questions. There are lots of reasons to call each other; to thank them, to offer help, to arrange a pick up time, etc. Often, students and their parents have put a lot of planning into these parties and have rules and guidelines that guests are expected to follow.
Have a backup plan for getting home.
Even if your teen is going with a group in a limo or bus, make sure they have money for a cab or another ride if needed.
Does your teen know how to contact you throughout the evening?
Tell them where you plan to be and how they can reach you. Some parents and teens set up a code or agreed upon phrase that will cue parents to pick them up, no questions asked.
Plan for changes.
If their plans for the evening change (and they may) make sure they know to check in and let you know the new destination and who they are with.
Renting hotel rooms for students is not recommended.
Not only are there issues of supervision and cost, but a large group of teens may run afoul of hotel noise policies and have a negative impact on other hotel guests.
If you are hosting a party review your town’s Social Host laws.
Parent hosts are often responsible for the safety of their guests. For more information about social host laws, see http://www.socialhostliability.org or http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Social_host_liability
Reinforce the message that they shouldn’t ever drive if they’ve been drinking or using drugs, and shouldn’t let their friends dot it either. It’s also worth reminding your teen that driving while tired can be just as dangerous as driving while they are intoxicated.
Most importantly – with all the excitement (and worry) don’t forget to say
“I love you and have a good time”
as they get ready to leave, and take lots of pictures.
Dr. Branco is a practicing pediatrician in the San Francisco Bay Area and is very active with the local chapter of the AAP. Ellen Branco is a School Counselor and Health Educator in the San Francisco Bay Area. She has been working at independent high schools and counseling since 2001.