The Implications of Prom

Many teenagers consider prom to be a BIG deal, which means it can be a BIG headache for parents. Depending on your teen’s perspective, they may have visions of the perfect (expensive) dress, or perhaps an incredible night of partying, or perhaps a romantic night leading to sexual activity. The good news is there are steps that parents can take to ensure a safe and affordable prom.

Prom Safety

In a recent survey, 70% of 11th and 12th graders said they expect their peers to drink and drive on prom night.  Underage drinking is a major factor in the two leading causes of teenage deaths: car crashes and fatal injuries. Underage drinking is also linked to two-thirds of sexual assaults and date rapes of teens, and increases the likelihood of unsafe and unplanned sexual activity. Many students who normally choose not to drink or engage in sexual behavior are tempted and under enormous pressure to be “part of” the party on prom night.

The most important thing that parents can do to ensure their child is safe on prom night is to talk about your expectations beforehand. Parents need to provide leadership, guidance and boundaries to their teens. Setting rules before the planning begins, such as not getting into a car with someone who has been drinking and returning home at a set hour, helps teens understand your expectations and increases the likelihood of their safety.  Do not wait for your teen to plan something inappropriate and then address it. This is an excellent time to have those important talks with your child about sex and drugs. You can review our blogs “Talking to Teens About Sex” and “Teen Alcohol Use: What You Can Do to Help” that provide tips on how to approach and discuss these difficult topics. Many parents worry that their discussions are going in one ear and out the other, but surveys show that one of the top reasons teens say they choose to make responsible choices on a wide range of risky behaviors is because they don’t want to disappoint their parents. Use your influence!

Parents often feel uncertain of the best approach when discussing alcohol on prom night. Some parents feel that drinking is inevitable on prom night and choose to advise their child to “drink responsibly.” Unfortunately, when parents tell teens to drink responsibly, what the child hears is, “My parents said it is okay to drink.” Aside from the fact that it’s illegal for anyone under 21 to drink alcohol and that more and more parents are being prosecuted for serving alcohol to minors, turning a blind eye to teen drinking at any time is an invitation to binge drinking. There have been some advocates of supervised teen drinking saying that European teens don’t have problems with binge drinking because they “learn” to drink at home with their parents. According to the European School Survey Project on Alcohol and Drugs, the proportion of 15 to 16-year-olds who binge drink is higher inFranceandItalythan in theUnited States. Bingeing is even more prevalent inDenmark,Ireland, and other northern European countries. Young adults can absolutely learn to drink responsibly when they turn the legal age.

Finally, talk to other parents of dates and fellow limo partners. Make sure everyone has the same story and information and you have their numbers on actual prom night just in case.

An Affordable Prom

Beyond keeping your teen safe during prom and afterward, there is also the problem of managing the expense of this big night. Costs can easily balloon out of control if you are not careful. However, with a little creativity, it is possible to go to the prom for a small amount of money. Prom actually presents parents with an excellent opportunity to teach their teen some budgeting skills. Encourage your teen to list the items they will need to pay for and get three quotes for each item (if appropriate). You don’t need to sit down with your teen as they develop their budget, but you should help them review it and point out items they may have missed. Following are some budgeting tips to share with your teen.

  • Attire: The largest percentage of your teen’s budget will likely be their attire. For boys, that will include a tuxedo rental. Call around for prices and find out which stores include which accessories (shoes, belt, tie, cummerbund, vest, etc). For girls, that will include a dress, shoes, purse, and jewelry. Prom dresses vary widely in price. Consider these ways to reduce costs: purchase inexpensive shoes or consider using ones you already have (instead of purchasing and dying shoes to match, especially since many dress styles are long and cover the shoes anyway), borrow jewelry from your mom or friends, and use a purse you already have. Shop for a dress in a thrift store, or if you choose to purchase a dress at full price, choose one for longevity so that you can wear it again for a college formal.
  • Beauty: The beauty budget includes the cost for hair, make-up, and nails. While it can be fun for your teen to have their beauty treatments done professionally, this is a simple area to save some money. Encourage your teen to do her own hair and make-up, or invite a family friend over who is good at hair and makeup.  Another option is to plan a party where your teen and her friends do each other’s hair, make-up, and nails. Another option is to call some nice department stores in your area that have cosmetics counters to see if they offer complimentary makeovers.
  • Transportation: The cheapest alternative is for your teen or their date to drive the family vehicle. However, most teens want to rent a limousine. Let your teen know that most limos have four-hour minimums and also require tipping. Your teen and their friends should come up with a total cost estimate and then divide that amount by the maximum number of people they are allowed to squeeze into the limo.
  • Tickets: Prom tickets range in cost from $70 to $100 per person. Consider asking a relative to cover this expense as a birthday or early graduation gift.
  • Dinner: While going to a fancy restaurant can be fun, you can save a lot of money by hosting a potluck dinner at your house or choosing a less expensive restaurant, which can be a fun, unpredictable memory maker.
  • Flowers: Purchasing a corsage or boutonniere for your date can vary widely in price (anywhere from $15 to $60). It’s important to recognize your date with flowers, but perhaps you can agree to opt for simple, less expensive arrangements.  Flowers should be ordered two to three weeks before the prom. If you still want to save more money, you could try making your own using some flowers in your garden.

If the prom still seems out of your price range, please know that charitable organizations exist in many parts of the country to help financially disadvantaged high school students with prom clothes and accessories. Do a quick Google search for names like the Cinderella Project, the Glass Slipper Project and Dream a Dress along with the name of your city or region and see what pops up.

Have Fun!

Despite all the worries that a parent may have over prom, don’t forget what a fun and exciting experience this will be for your teen. Pull out your old prom pictures and laugh with your teen over the outdated styles. Be sure to have a camera ready on the big day and encourage your teen to have fun!

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