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So Your Teen’s Going to Prom … Now What?

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Tips for parents about prom preparation and insights.

Twenty-five years ago, when it was time for my prom, my parents said I could go — and that was the extent of their involvement. An older sister took me shopping for my dress. I listened in on prom conversations at school and trusted teen magazines for direction.

This approach wasn’t how I would have chosen to navigate the various prom issues and concerns that arose for me. But it was my only option. Now that I have four daughters of my own, I’m acutely aware of how much they need a parent’s guidance during prom season. Here are topics I plan to discuss with my girls before prom rolls around:

Media Messages

Today prom is marketed to teens with language like “Dresses So Hot They Sizzle” and “How to Have the Most Romantic Night Ever.” Long before plans for this cultural springtime event start to take shape, we need to begin talking with our teens about media messages and our biblical worldview. Discussing the pros and cons of attending prom will open the door for continued conversations about the details of the evening.

Expense

High school goes Hollywood when it comes to the prom. The equivalent of a red-carpet event, today’s high school prom often consists of top-of-the-line dresses and tuxedos, stretch limos and extravagant dining. And then, of course, there are the prom tickets, pictures and flowers!

Begin planning with your teen by discussing a prom budget. Ask your teen about the basics. For example, is there a ticket cost or is the event free? Make a list of prom expenses and agree on a budget for each. Discuss renting vs. buying, comparison-shopping, and inexpensive dining and car-pool options.

Attire

While I wore a full-length gown to my prom, prom dresses today tend to be shorter and tighter.

Discuss modesty with your daughter before you head to the stores to shop for a dress. Just as you agreed on a budget, agree on appropriate attire. Then be honest with your daughter as she models her dress selections in a full-length mirror, gently reminding her to view the dress from the front and back, standing, sitting and bending over.

Dancing

Dancing can be fun, especially with a group of friends. Unfortunately, dancing has changed a lot since I went to prom. It now often involves inappropriate physical contact and moves that are overtly sexual.

Remind your teen to be aware of personal boundaries when dancing. Encourage group dances and discuss a plan in which friends stick close to one another throughout the evening. Your teen will feel better prepared for the evening if she knows what to expect and how to protect herself from unwanted advances on the dance floor.

Curfew

A post-prom party is considered the norm, and for high school seniors it may include renting hotel rooms or cabins for all-night activities. Discuss after-prom options with your teen and settle on a prom curfew based on your teen’s level of responsibility and his evening plans.

Consider volunteering at the school’s after-prom event, or host your own after-prom party — complete with a pancake breakfast. Have your teen give you his complete itinerary for the evening, including whom he’ll be with, where they’ll be going after the prom and phone numbers where he can be reached. For younger teens, you may even want to establish “call-in” times so they can touch base throughout the night.

Safety

With the heightened excitement of prom night, teens don’t always make responsible decisions. And because prom is often touted as a time to self-indulge, risky behaviors may be harder to resist. The grim reality is that over one-third of all alcohol-related traffic deaths among teens occur during the prom/graduation season.

With statistics like that, it’s essential to talk with your teen about safety concerns — alcohol, drugs, sexual pressures and driving under the influence. Give your teen the unconditional option of calling you for help or advice. Assure your teen that you’ll pick him up anywhere, at any time, without condemnation or embarrassment.

Encouragement

Let your teen know that you want her to have a wonderful and memorable prom. Then keep that focus as you navigate the various prom issues together. Remind your teen that prom is only one night in an entire lifetime of exciting events. Pray with and for your teen. Affirm her by letting her know that you trust she will abstain from immorality, guard her heart and make wise decisions on this special night.

The prom season provides a wonderful opportunity for parents to engage in their teens’ world. Let’s not miss this occasion to cultivate communication with our teens and demonstrate our endless love for them.

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