For many teenagers, senior prom is one of the most memorable experiences that high school offers. But for parents, the event can also raise questions and concerns. Where should they turn for prom advice? Your Teen asked a panel of experts to tackle the most common.
Q: How can I handle the cost?
Expert: There’s no reason not to set a budget. Start by discussing what your teenager believes is reasonable and most essential, recommends Lisa Bahar, a licensed marriage and family therapist from Dana Point, California. Then ask your teenager to come up with a budget. That budget should include attire, tickets, dinner and anything else they believe is important. Have your teenager shop around and pitch why he or she believes those choices are ideal; then come to an agreement. If your teenager wants to spend more, then he or she should handle those costs. This is also a valuable lesson in money management, notes Bahar.
Q: Should I impose a curfew?
Expert: Curfew concerns are another topic of discussion worth addressing. Most experts suggest letting this become a larger lesson in trust and reliability. How will your son or daughter behave when he or she leaves home in a few months? “If the parent and teen can negotiate and agree on a reasonable curfew, this gives the teen practice in good decision-making,” says Lisa Greenberg, a licensed psychologist from Madison, New Jersey. “Many teens are also much more likely to respect agreements they have been part of making than ones imposed by someone else.”
Bahar has a somewhat different take. Allow your teenager to express what he or she thinks is a reasonable curfew, she says, and follow your level of comfort accordingly. She also suggests checking in with other parents to get a feel for what the general standard is in your community.
Q: I’m worried my teenager views sex as part of prom night?
Expert: For parents concerned about their teenager participating in risky behavior, Bahar again stresses conversation. Ask your teenager how he or she feels about these subjects. Then offer the information you think is vital to their safety. For example, while you don’t have to condone after-prom sex, by now your teenager should know the risks of unprotected sex. Teenagers will ultimately make decisions about whether or not to have sex on their own, so it’s your job to make sure they’re prepared.
Q: What about alcohol?
Expert: Many schools now have alcohol-free after prom events. However, if you are worried that no matter what you say, your teenager and his or her friends will be drinking, then pitching in for a limo or organizing a carpool to ensure there will be no driving under the influence may make sense, says Marcy Michaels, a clinical psychologist in Hartford, Connecticut.
Teenagers often make decisions regardless of their parents’ advice, so it’s best to play it safe. “Unfortunately, drinking is sometimes an inevitable reality of prom. Kids feel like celebrating, so make sure you provide enough resources for them to arrive at their destination safely.” Whether it’s prom or just a regular weekend, make sure your teenager understands they can always call you for a no-questions asked ride home. If that call comes, stick to the agreement, then talk about what happened in the next day or so.
Q: Should I be concerned my teenager isn’t going to prom?
Expert: For the teenager who doesn’t want to go to prom, don’t push it, Michaels says. There are dozens of reasons a teenager would choose to skip the dance. If you’re worried, ask your teenager why he or she is opting out. If the reason is along the lines of “I don’t have a date,” give your teenager alternatives. Maybe they could attend prom with a group of friends.
For teenagers who feel as if they don’t fit in, Michaels suggests offering alternatives. Maybe an outing or volunteering to throw an “anti-prom,” which is basically a get together for teenagers not interested in attending the formal occasion.
Finally, don’t assume your teenager will regret having missed out on prom. Some simply don’t feel prom is for them. And that’s okay, Michaels says. He adds “Introverted, highly-intelligent, successful students sometimes are not interested in prom activities, many times to avoid the peer pressure, or because they simply don’t find it fun.”