With a focused intensity you wish they would apply to their math homework, high school students are now preparing for prom night. Many of them consider it to be the most important event of the year. As a parent, of course you want it to be a night to remember as well—for all the right reasons. Teens need clear boundaries and guidance to ensure a festive, but safe, prom experience.
Wanting to make the most of the occasion, students may feel pressure to engage in risky behaviors like drinking or drug use on prom night. Remind them such behaviors can have serious consequences. One third of alcohol-related youth fatalities occur in April, May and June—the peak of prom season—according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Other studies show young adults have gone further sexually while under the influence of drugs or alcohol than they planned to while sober.
So, what can you do as a parent to help teens make healthy decisions on prom night?
Set ground rules. Your teen may be on the verge of adulthood, but you still call the shots on prom night. Set check-in times and enforce a curfew. Discourage drug and alcohol use — it’s illegal and can increase risky behavior. Most importantly, have an agreement for your child to let you know if any plans change.
Know the names. Whether it’s a group or a date, know who your teen will be with on prom night. If you don’t already know your teen’s friends or date, it isn’t too late to make that connection. Consider offering your house as a place for friends to meet and take pictures. This may also create an opportunity to meet the other parents. Keeping teens safe is easier when you’re all on the same team.
Have an exit strategy. What would happen if your child landed in an unexpected situation where drugs and alcohol were readily available and threatening to put the prom in promiscuity? Consider providing cash for cab fare in case he or she needs to leave a location. Or let your child know that you (or another trusted adult) will be available any time during the night to provide a safe ride home.
Prom is a rite of passage for teenagers. By planning ahead and encouraging our children to make healthy choices, we can help make prom a night to remember for all the right reasons.
About Ashleigh Hall
Ashleigh Hall, BS, CPS II, is a Team Leader for Centerstone Tennessee and a Certified Prevention Specialist with fifteen years of experience working with children and their families.