When it comes to prom, I don’t know if it’s the parents who are more anxious or the high schoolers. It’s been a few decades since my prom in the Red Devil gym. Some of the memories have faded, but what I remember of my prom is all of the hype leading up to it.

While a lot has changed since then — the music, the dresses, the dancing — the hype is still the same. Prom brings so much excitement, and so much peer pressure and expectations.

Years before I experienced prom as a parent, I got to experience it vicariously through a former colleague. Her son had just received his driver’s license a few months earlier, and within days of prom, his waiting period for driving with others in the car had expired. My colleague deliberated in her mind about whether or not to let him drive to prom. As a single parent with three other younger boys at home, letting him take the car seemed to be the convenient decision. After all, his friends’ home, the restaurant and prom venue were nearby and he wouldn’t need to do much driving.

So, she gave the approval to let her son take the family car. The evening went as planned and they did all of the typical things one would expect to do on prom night – they gathered for the awkward prom photos with the parents, enjoyed a nice dinner in an expensive restaurant where other diners could whisper “I bet they’re going to prom.”

It was when they were driving to prom that the evening took a turn – but, unfortunately the car didn’t. He rounded a corner and hit the accelerator when he should’ve hit the brake. In all of the chaos, he hit the accelerator even harder. He ended up side-swiping a Mercedez Benz, a Jaguar and a gigantic SUV.

Most importantly, no one was hurt and neither alcohol nor drugs were involved. He simply was an inexperienced driver. It was far from the prom they expected, and I remember his mom saying that he stopped driving for awhile. Still, he did go on to be successful in life and he has something to reminisce about at their 20-year class reunion.

Not smashing into three luxury vehicles on the way to prom is good advice for your teen. That’s probably an unspoken rule. As for the other rules about prom, they should be spoken again and again.

It’s likely that since the first corsage was pinned on a girl at prom, this dance has been a highlight of the high school years. Unfortunately, prom also brings a lot of peer pressure relating to alcohol, drugs and sex. Even teens who haven’t experimented before may succumb to the temptations.

At 17 and 18 years old, our children’s brains are still developing. They’re really not prepared to make decisions or withstand the high pressure social situations that come with prom. Or, they may just be too naïve about the dangers. A survey conducted by Liberty Mutual found that only 20 percent of juniors and seniors believed being on the roads on prom night was dangerous. If only they knew that about 300 youth died in alcohol-related traffic deaths on prom weekend (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration).

Not only is it important to have ongoing conversations with your child about the dangers of drugs, alcohol and sex, it’s important to help your child develop the self-confidence and leadership skills to withstand the pressures.

Helping your child devise an exit plan ahead of time is helpful in case he or is in an uncomfortable situation. “I’m sick. I need to call a ride” or blame your parents and say “They’ll kill me if I’m high when I get home.” Be sure that your teen has a way to access you or another trusted adult during the night, and know where your teen is, too.

Parents play an important role in setting the standard for behavior. A study by AAA surveyed teens aged 16-19 and found that 31 percent of teens reported it was likely that they or their friends would use drugs or alcohol during prom graduation season. About 53 percent of teens who admitted to drinking during or after the prom said they consumed four or more alcoholic beverages, and some get behind the wheel.

Don’t give permission for your child to attend parties where alcohol is served to minors, and don’t allow minors to drink in your home. About 25 percent of teens (ages 12 to 20 years) report getting alcohol from adults such as parents other family members (SAMHSA).

According to AAA, 87 percent of teens reported their friends would be more likely to drive after drinking than to call home for a ride (especially if they thought they would get in trouble). Also alarming is that about 19 percent of teens said they have ridden with someone who had been drinking rather than calling

The La Porte County Sheriff's Department reports that La Porte County has had 13 years of safe practices with no prom related tragedies. Certainly, we’re all hoping that this trend continues.

Not all teens make poor decisions on prom night. Have open conversations with your teen before prom, and continue those discussions in the days, weeks and years to come. Your child will be confronted with many more high social pressure opportunities in college, work or other post-high school ventures. When your child looks back on prom night, let’s hope that the worse thing was that her date honked the horn from the street. 

When it comes to prom, I don’t know if it’s the parents who are more anxious or the high schoolers. It’s been a few decades since my prom in the Red Devil gym. Some of the memories have faded, but what I remember of my prom is all of the hype leading up to it.

While a lot has changed since then — the music, the dresses, the dancing — the hype is still the same. Prom brings so much excitement, and so much peer pressure and expectations.

Years before I experienced prom as a parent, I got to experience it vicariously through a former colleague. Her son had just received his driver’s license a few months earlier, and within days of prom, his waiting period for driving with others in the car had expired. My colleague deliberated in her mind about whether or not to let him drive to prom. As a single parent with three other younger boys at home, letting him take the car seemed to be the convenient decision. After all, his friends’ home, the restaurant and prom venue were nearby and he wouldn’t need to do much driving.

So, she gave the approval to let her son take the family car. The evening went as planned and they did all of the typical things one would expect to do on prom night – they gathered for the awkward prom photos with the parents, enjoyed a nice dinner in an expensive restaurant where other diners could whisper “I bet they’re going to prom.”

It was when they were driving to prom that the evening took a turn – but, unfortunately the car didn’t. He rounded a corner and hit the accelerator when he should’ve hit the brake. In all of the chaos, he hit the accelerator even harder. He ended up side-swiping a Mercedez Benz, a Jaguar and a gigantic SUV.

Most importantly, no one was hurt and neither alcohol nor drugs were involved. He simply was an inexperienced driver. It was far from the prom they expected, and I remember his mom saying that he stopped driving for awhile. Still, he did go on to be successful in life and he has something to reminisce about at their 20-year class reunion.

Not smashing into three luxury vehicles on the way to prom is good advice for your teen. That’s probably an unspoken rule. As for the other rules about prom, they should be spoken again and again.

It’s likely that since the first corsage was pinned on a girl at prom, this dance has been a highlight of the high school years. Unfortunately, prom also brings a lot of peer pressure relating to alcohol, drugs and sex. Even teens who haven’t experimented before may succumb to the temptations.

At 17 and 18 years old, our children’s brains are still developing. They’re really not prepared to make decisions or withstand the high pressure social situations that come with prom. Or, they may just be too naïve about the dangers. A survey conducted by Liberty Mutual found that only 20 percent of juniors and seniors believed being on the roads on prom night was dangerous. If only they knew that about 300 youth died in alcohol-related traffic deaths on prom weekend (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration).

Not only is it important to have ongoing conversations with your child about the dangers of drugs, alcohol and sex, it’s important to help your child develop the self-confidence and leadership skills to withstand the pressures.

Helping your child devise an exit plan ahead of time is helpful in case he or is in an uncomfortable situation. “I’m sick. I need to call a ride” or blame your parents and say “They’ll kill me if I’m high when I get home.” Be sure that your teen has a way to access you or another trusted adult during the night, and know where your teen is, too.

Parents play an important role in setting the standard for behavior. A study by AAA surveyed teens aged 16-19 and found that 31 percent of teens reported it was likely that they or their friends would use drugs or alcohol during prom graduation season. About 53 percent of teens who admitted to drinking during or after the prom said they consumed four or more alcoholic beverages, and some get behind the wheel.

Don’t give permission for your child to attend parties where alcohol is served to minors, and don’t allow minors to drink in your home. About 25 percent of teens (ages 12 to 20 years) report getting alcohol from adults such as parents other family members (SAMHSA).

According to AAA, 87 percent of teens reported their friends would be more likely to drive after drinking than to call home for a ride (especially if they thought they would get in trouble). Also alarming is that about 19 percent of teens said they have ridden with someone who had been drinking rather than calling

The La Porte County Sheriff's Department reports that La Porte County has had 13 years of safe practices with no prom related tragedies. Certainly, we’re all hoping that this trend continues.

Not all teens make poor decisions on prom night. Have open conversations with your teen before prom, and continue those discussions in the days, weeks and years to come. Your child will be confronted with many more high social pressure opportunities in college, work or other post-high school ventures. When your child looks back on prom night, let’s hope that the worse thing was that her date honked the horn from the street.

Pamela Henderson is the director of development and communications at Dunebrook. To learn more about parenting and support programs at Dunebrook, call (800) 897-0007. Email Pam with parenting questions and comments at pam@dunebrook.org.

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