Yes it is that time of year again — Prom Season. Since there has been a significant decrease in Coronavirus cases, many schools are having Junior Proms and Senior Balls again. However, there is a difference in the junior or seniors currently in High School. Many are tired of being locked up and missing out on their high school experience. Therefore, many teens cannot wait for the chance to go to the prom. Since it has been a while that teenagers have attended a high school dance, girls are wanting the perfect dress, regardless of price, and teens are wanting to go to a very nice expensive restaurant and use a limo. However for many students the common issues are coming up such as, who will I go with, what dress to wear and how much can I spend, where to go to dinner, can we afford a limo and can I go to the after parties? So some teenagers are just focusing on their freedom and others are focused on their freedom too, but they are worried about financial issues too. This is no surprise since inflation is high and many families are struggling to afford food and shelter. Hopefully, you and your teen have already discussed issues around dating and have agreements regarding dating. If not, Prom may be a harder issue because now you have to deal with issues regarding dating and Prom.
As a parent, the first thing to do is to contact your teen’s High School and see what rules and guidelines the school has already established. Many High Schools have rules regarding who can attend, such as only students who attend that high school can attend, a dress code (such as how low cut a dress can be or colors for tuxedos) and some high schools require you to inform them if you are going and your date’s name and the telephone numbers for both set of parents. They do this so if your teen fails to arrive by the designated time or if there are any problems at the Prom, they know who to call. If you have a teenager who wants to go without a date and just go with friends you need to ask if this is acceptable. If you have a teenager who belongs to the LGBT+ community, you will want to enquirer about what protocols the school has established so your teenager can attend the dance safety and enjoy it. Luckily, most high schools now allow students to attend the Prom with a date, friends or just by themselves. Additionally, most schools (despite the governor of Florida) do not place restrictions on LBGT+ students and many high schools are actively trying to make it a safe place for LGBTQ+ teens. Therefore, most high schools are attempting to accommodate all of the students attending their school. This is a nice change to see.
Another reason to contact the school is to find out where the Prom is being held. Due to the number deaths associated with alcohol or drug use, and now with the concern about the virus, and mass shootings, a number of high schools have decided to have the entire Prom on the school campus. They serve dinner and have the dance at the school. Once you have the details then it is time to discuss with your teen what your expectations are regarding the Prom. This is also the time where you will set the rules for the Prom and make your agreements with your teen.
Assuming the Prom is not being held at the campus and instead being held at a Hotel, there are a few items to discuss. The first issue is price. Most teens want to go to an expensive dinner, hire a limo for the night and for the girls there is the Prom dress. I have seen teens spend over $2,000 on their Prom dresses. A limo for the night can cost $2000 and dinner can cost $350. If you have this money and are willing to indulge your teen then there is no problem. However, most parents don’t have this extra money so you need to agree on a budget. For example, a limo is not a necessity for the Prom. As a parent you may feel safer with a limo because your teen is not driving. Also there is a law and limos cannot carry liquor when they are driving for Proms and they must card anyone consuming alcohol in the limo and passengers must use seat belts. You can bring the price down by having your teen split the cost of the car with 2 to 3 other couples. However, you will want to talk to the parents of your teen’s date and any friends they are going with to ensure all the parents agree.
Another option is letting your teenager pay for part of their prom. There is nothing wrong with expecting them to contribute to the cost of their prom. In fact, it is a good way to educate them about money. If they are having to spend their own money, they may choose some cheaper options. This is a good way to start teaching your teen about managing money. You can have your teen purchase the prom tickets, pay for the dinner, girls can pay for part of their dress and boys can pay to rent a tuxedo and for a corsage for their date. As a parent you may want to help with the limo, if they are using one, and the Prom pictures. Some teenagers may need some help budgeting money and parents can help teens with figuring out ways to budget and less expensive options for some items. For example, parents can suggest a very nice restaurant that is not very expensive.
If you have a daughter you need to negotiate the cost of the dress or consider renting a dress. In my opinion she does not need to spend $500 on a dress or more to look good. The same rule goes for her hair. She does not need to spend $300 on styling her hair for one night. She can rent a dress and there are beauticians who do not charge as much but still do an excellent job.
You also need to talk with your teen regarding your expectations about consuming alcohol, using drugs and sexual activity on Prom night. Many teens plan After Parties for their Proms. Quite often at the After Parties is where the drinking, drug use or sexual activity occurs. This is another reason why it is important to know who your teen will be going with to the Prom and their parents. You should never allow your teen to go to an After Party where there is no adult supervision. If the party is at a friend’s house with adult supervision and you have spoken with the adult, there should be no problem. If your teen wants to rent a hotel room so their date and their friends can have a party, this is a huge problem and should not be allowed. There are too many incidents where teens overdose, drink to the point of alcohol poisoning, get pregnant or trash the hotel room. Most hotels will not rent a room to someone under 18, but many teens find away around this rule using friends or cousins who are 18 years or older. Also some parents will rent the room for their teen because they want to be viewed as the nice parent. Remember being a parent is not a popularity contest and some times you need to make an unpopular decision because that is what is best for your teenager. This is also a reason why you would want to talk to the parents of the friends your teenager is going to the Prom with. You may want to ask if any of the parents agreed to rent a hotel room.
Another issue to discuss is curfew. Yes it is their Prom and you want them to have a good time, but there is no reason why they need to stay out the entire night or for the entire weekend. If there is adult supervision the entire time it may work. If there is not adult supervision it is a recipe for disaster. Yes some parents plan a breakfast for the morning after the prom. They may serve breakfast at 4 am. If there are plans such as these, your teen could simply text you at some point that everything is going fine. No one needs to know that they checked in with you.
One other issue you need to be prepared for is if your teen does not have a date for the Prom. This can be devastating to a teenager. If this occurs reassure them that it means nothing about them as a person and allow them to express their feelings. Many schools are realizing how much pressure having a date is placing on teenagers and some teens are not ready to date in High School. Therefore, as I stated above, a number of High Schools have changed policies regarding the Prom. Many schools allow teens to make a choice. If they want to take a date they can or if they do not want to take a date and just go with friends that is fine. So if your teen does not have a date and the school does not require one explain not everyone is ready to date in High School and there is nothing wrong with them. Reinforcing their self-esteem can be very important because as a teen many teenager’s self-esteem are fragile and they need your support.
As I stated above for teenagers who are questioning their sexuality or who have decided they are not heterosexual, the prom can present additional challenges. Some High Schools have LGBT+ clubs so there probably won’t be an issue. However, many high schools do not have LGBT+ clubs. If your teenager has decided they are not heterosexual, then I suggest you call the High School and see what arrangements have been made for LGBT+ students. They have the same right to attend the Prom as the other students.
Finally, you need to have a discussion with your teen regarding acting responsibly and to have self-respect. The Prom is a major event and it is another step that your teen is taking into the adult world. They need to remember if they want to act like adults, they have to be willing to accept being treated like an adult. So if they violate the rules that their school has established for the Prom, they may be giving up their right to graduate with their class. The Prom should be a happy event that you and your teen both remember for a long time. If you discuss the issues before the Prom and come to agreements that you both accept then it should be a safe, happy event for all. Good luck!
Dr. Michael Rubino specializes in working with teenagers, their parents and high schools. He has been treating teenagers for over 25 years. For more information on his work visit his website www.rubinocounseling.com, his Facebook page www.Facebook.com/drrubino3 or follow him on Twitter @RubinoTherapy.