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Prom: For many teens, it’s one of the most important and memorable nights of their high school lives. It can also be fraught with angst, from deciding who to go with and what to wear to bigger issues including drugs, alcohol, and intimacy. As a parent, you want your teens to have fun, but you also want to make sure they are safe. By talking with your teen ahead of the big day and setting some ground rules and expectations, prom night can be everything that your teen and his or her friends are hoping it will be.
Avoiding the Spending Trap
On average, teens spend more than $600 to attend prom, according to a Yahoo Style survey. This includes attire; hair and makeup; tickets; transportation; and more, such as dinner before the dance or post-prom activities. And it’s easy to get caught in the spending trap: Psychologists note that social media has increased the pressure on teens to “go all out” for the prom to keep up with their friends or others they deem as having the ideal prom experience. Not only does this take a bit out of the bank account, but can also set up unrealistic expectations for the event.
As a parent, you can help keep those expectations in check. Talk with your teen well before the event and help him or her set priorities and a budget for the night. While your daughter might have her heart set on a pricey designer gown, for instance, offer some suggestions on how to create a similar look for less by scouring consignment stores or renting a dress from a source like Rent the Runway. Encourage your teen to pool some expenses with friends; for example, several couples can share the cost of a NYC prom limo, ensuring safe transportation while saving money. Set limits with your teen and agree on how much you will contribute to the prom, with the understanding that anything above that amount is his or her responsibility.
Create a Positive Example
Unfortunately, for many teens — girls especially — prom can bring anxieties about appearance to the surface. It’s not uncommon for teens to crash diet or exercise excessively (or both) in an attempt to lose weight for prom. Others may engage in other unhealthy activities like using tanning beds to get a “glow” for the event. Keep a close eye over your teen in the months leading up to prom to spot any changes in behavior and signs of anxiety. Encourage healthy behaviors and choices by offering healthy foods, ensuring he or she gets enough sleep, and banning anything like tanning beds.
Parents can also help their kids by guiding them in choosing the right attire for the prom. Insist on final approval of any dress, and help your daughter choose something that she feels comfortable wearing. Review any school dress codes or rules about dresses before you go shopping so you don’t inadvertently make an inappropriate choice.
Discuss Behavior Expectations
Whether accurate or not, the popular conception about prom night is that it’s a time for teens to let loose and go crazy — and that can include drinking and more.
In the days and weeks leading up to prom, talk with your teen about what to expect during the event, and reiterate that they do not have to engage in anything that they don’t feel comfortable with. Consider providing an “out” for them if things get out of hand: Tell them to text a code word or a specific letter to you if they want to come home, and you will pick them up, no questions asked. Explain that there will be consequences for breaking the rules (and outline them in advance), but that their safety is the top priority and you’ll help them get out of any sticky situation.
To help avoid the temptation for inappropriate behaviors, consider throwing an after-prom party for your teen and his or her friends. After an evening of dancing, they are likely to be starving, so ordering a bunch of pizzas and providing a safe place to watch a movie, hang out with friends or even swim if you have a pool can help keep the fun going while ensuring a safe environment.
Prom is a highlight of high school for many teens, but it can also be stressful for both them and you. Help your teen maintain a healthy perspective and reasonable expectations, and it’s more likely to be a memorable, fun, and safe night.