With all the hype leading up to prom, it's understandable for parents to start worrying about their teen's decisions and safety on prom night. While you can't control your kid's actions, there are plenty of ways to help them make smart choices and still have fun.
First, experts agree that the best thing you can do is initiate conversations with you children about your concerns. Whether you're setting the tone and budget for prom preparation or addressing tougher issues like alcohol and sex, don't expect your teen to come to you. Instead, take advantage of teachable moments, like when you're watching TV together and a suggestive ad comes on, or when you're driving together and your teen is a captive audience. Once you have their attention, make sure that your tone is open to their input and gives them credit for the responsible decisions they do make. It's important for your teen to know you trust him or her, especially when you're discussing important issues. They should feel like you're talking with them, not at them.
In your conversations about prom night, make sure you talk to your teen about what's at stake if they engage in risky behavior. Often, young people don't think that the worst-case-scenario will happen to them and in their sense of invincibility they might overlook other risks. Avoid focusing on consequences such as death or pregnancy and instead talk about loss of self-respect, hurt feelings, or the potential loss of college offers. Remind your teen that in this digital age everyone has a camera and it's unfortunately not uncommon for pictures or videos of scandalous behavior to end up on the internet. Not only could this lead to shame or bullying, it's not too late for colleges to rescind offers for admission or scholarships.
Even if you trust your teen, there are actions you can take to make sure their prom night will be safe. Encourage him or her to attend a school-sponsored after prom or stick to their normal curfew. If your son or daughter is going to go to a party, contact the adult in charge to make sure they are actually hosting a party and that they will be chaperoning. Make sure they will be home at all times and that they aren't planning on serving alcohol. They'll likely understand your concern. Keep their address and phone number handy. Plus, check the alcohol in your own home so you know that it's all accounted for that night.
If your teen is driving or riding with other young drivers, limit the number of passengers allowed in the car and make sure to request that everyone wear their seat-belts and put their cellphones down. 70% of teens killed on prom weekends were not wearing their seat-belts. Create a back up plan. Let them know that if they do get into mischief, they can call you, or a trusted family friend, for a ride home. Alcohol isn't the only hazard for teen drivers. Your teen could be too tired to safely drive after an after prom. Give them safe options. Be awake when your teen gets home and let them know you'll be waiting up. You can even make it a special occasion and tell them you'll have a midnight snack waiting so they can tell you about the fun.
Above all, trust your instincts. You know your children best and if you suspect they're at risk, say something.