Moms and Proms – Talking to teens about prom night safety

It is one of the highlights of the high school experience for any teenager. A rite of passage in which every girl becomes Cinderella and every boy looks as dapper as the handsome prince. However, before allowing your child to ride off into the sunset for an event that will last well past midnight, it’s important to talk to your teens so the prom night fantasy doesn’t turn into a living nightmare for them, or you.

Should they stay or should they go?

One of the first worries a parent may have is whether to encourage their child to go to prom at all. With so many horror stories (we’ve all heard them), it can be tempting to keep your teen at home where he or she will be safe and sound. However, many would agree doing so is more overprotective than necessary.

Joy Jones LMHC, a certified child psychotherapist believes the prom can be a positive experience full of memories teens will treasure for a lifetime, making it a milestone that should not be missed. Yet, it is only natural that parents have concerns about a night in which it is socially acceptable to stay out late—and it is important to address those concerns before allowing a child to take part in prom or after-prom festivities.

“It’s all about communication and that takes place on a daily basis,” she said. “When it is time to talk to your child about anything, including the prom, you have to have a good connection with them so that you can hear their concerns, discuss yours and engage them in the decision making process.”

Create a plan

Jones believes that parents should be willing to have a frank discussion about all possible pitfalls of prom night—a discussion that goes beyond the usual “Just say no” speech. While parents can and should outline their own beliefs regarding alcohol and drug use, it is important to note that over half of prom teens report having several drinks over the course of the night so it’s best to have a contingency plan in place should your child be in a position where he or she needs a sober ride home.

“Give them a way out so that they are more likely to call you rather than get behind the wheel themselves or ride with someone else who has been drinking,” Jones said.

A way out does not mean a free pass. Parents should absolutely set ground rules regarding behavioral expectations; age-appropriate curfews and consequences should their teen choose to exercise poor judgment on prom night. After all, punishments end, but death is forever.

“All it takes is one bad decision to ruin what should be a positive experience,” Jones said.

Simple strategies for a safe prom night

• If you are driving, practice your route to and from the venue especially at night.
• Create an emergency plan with your child including code words they can use to let you know they need picked up right away.
• Make sure your teen has his or her cell phone charger with them and that you have the phone numbers of everyone your child will be with before and after the prom.
• Set curfew and behavioral expectations and set consequences for any rule infraction.
• Talk to all parents hosting an after-prom party and make sure you know what is set to occur during the event. Don’t assume that every parent shares your family values. Better safe than sorry.
• If hiring a limo, check the company’s alcohol policy for underage riders and speak with the driver regarding your expectations for the evening. Prom night statistics
• About 5,202 teens are injured and 48 are killed in automobile accidents during a typical prom weekend.
• Approximately 53 percent of teens report having four or more drinks over prom night.
• 14 percent of girls attending prom will engage in sexual activity during the evening with four percent of those girls losing their virginity on prom night.
• Prom is one of the most expensive nights of a teen’s young life. According to a national survey conducted by Visa, households spend on average $978 for prom including attire, flowers, salon services, photography, transportation, tickets and dinner.

Sources: US Department of Transportation, Center for Disease Control, National Highway Association and Visa.

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