How to be Sure Your Kid Survives Prom Night
By Dr. Maryann Rosenthal

Like driving a car and going off to college attending a high school prom is one of life’s defining moments on the road to adulthood. You probably still recall your own excitement at attending your own prom even though it may have been decades ago and the giddy feelings of anticipation of what it would be like to experience adult things like dressing up in formalwear and partying all night with your classmates.

Now that you are a parent, prom season can take on a different image – kids who have had too much to drink getting behind the wheel of a car, falling asleep while driving, having sex because they think “everyone is doing it” and getting into other mischief because truth be told, today’s proms require parents to be more vigilant than ever before.

Here are some tips for negotiating the fine line between letting your teenage son and daughter enjoy some extra freedom and keeping them safe.

Bend but Don’t Break: You want your teenager to have a good time on prom night that he or she will fondly recall for years to come. To achieve that, some of your usual rules will probably have to be suspended for one night only such as how late he or she can stay out. If there are aspects about your teen’s prom plans that disturb you ask yourself this question: Is it distressing or dangerous? If you judge something to be dangerous, then stand firm. If it is distressing you might be able to live with it this time.

Make Sure You Know the Plan: Is the school sponsoring an after party? Are some parents allowing their kids to rent a hotel room or to have a co-ed sleepover? Would it be better if you had the teens come back to your house? Knowing the details as well as who your teen’s friends are and how responsible they are will help you know what type of boundaries you will have to set to feel comfortable. Co-ed sleepovers may not be as bad as they sound provided that the teens are not romantically involved with each other but the hotel room idea has danger written all over it.

Don’t Assume Good Kids Can Handle Risky Situations. If your teen has never gotten into trouble, you might be fooled into thinking he or she will know what to do when faced with the unexpected. You could be wrong. For your own peace of mind I recommend role playing situations that could occur during prom night. For example, ask your daughter what she would do if the date driving her home was drunk. If you do this in a non-threatening manner, you will be amazed at the response that you get from your child and can then offer your own suggestions for what they might do in that situation. You might say, “Gosh, if that were me, I might say, ‘I’m not feeling good. I think I’m going to be sick. I’m going to call my mom and dad to take me home.’” In this case you would be giving your daughter permission to lie in order to get out of a dangerous situation.

If you have taken the steps I have outlined, when prom night rolls around your only concern will be finding the camera to take photographs of your very adult-looking son or daughter heading off into a night to remember.


Dr. Maryann Rosenthal’s new book “Be A Parent Not a Pushover is available in bookstores everywhere. Dr. Maryann tells how to find a balance between loving your children and setting limits for them, to generate trust, confidence, resilience, and integrity.

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