REALITY CHECK: Did you know the period between prom through graduation are statistically the deadliest time of the year for teens on our national highways?
Here are ways to keep your teen safe and have happy memories.
Prom night. Graduation! You want your teen to have a wonderful, magical evening, but it’s easy to forget that prom these days is more than picking out the perfect prom dress, tux, corsages, and hair style. It’s those after-prom parties with possible underage drinking and drugs, S.E.X. that is causing parents the real nightmares. But there’s also a very real nightmare: the most dangers time of the year for teens are from prom night to graduation…especially when it comes to drinking and driving. So let’s keep our teens safe.
While most students will make healthy choices, many do view prom night as “the” night… a “rite of passage” that should be celebrated …and big time. Expectations are huge for prom to be “the perfect night” and alcohol is often seen as “the way” to celebrate. And that’s exactly why parents must first take a reality check on just how big teens view this night – and then find ways to temper their expectations, have those essential talks, and create a few safety nets so teens do have fun and memories – but also have no regrets and come home safely.
10 Ways to Make Your Teen’s Prom and Grad Night Safer
Keep an open communication with your teen during these next few weeks. These are the same talks your graduating senior will need when he goes off into the real world so see these weeks as opportunities to review your rules, party precaution tips and those old standards covering drinking, sex, driving, and peer pressure.
Just please don’t wait for prom night to have “the big talk” – you know they won’t be tuning in.
And do halt the lectures-which are guaranteed turn offs). Instead, try to find relaxed times for your discussions. Think “little chats” – not one big marathon.
Remember – peer pressure is huge – (especially with drinking and sex) and much more then parents recognize. A Boys and Girls Club Survey of over 46,000 found that teens put peer pressure as one of their biggest challenges and concerns.
There is also a big disconnect of how often parents think their teens drink. Beware!
A University of Michigan study found that about 70 percent of teens drink during high school year
About half of junior high and senior high school students drink alcohol on a monthly basis
Teens are pressured to drink anyway, but prom night seems to just put the pressure to boiling point. Mix alcohol with a teen’s immature brain and you have a bad combo. Their inhibitions go down and peer pressure goes up. And teens who do drink are more likely to engage in sexual activity and have unprotected sex. So let’s have those talks. Here are things to consider (depending upon your teen and situation).
1. Reach out to the school or parents for prom night details
Talk to other parents about post-event activities to ensure alcohol won’t be present. Identify alcohol-free activities and safe driving policies. Go to the school (usually there are parent meeting about the event) and listen so you know the plans. You can also discuss those with your teen so knows you’re in the loop.
2. Get on board with other like-minded parents
Talk to parents of your teen’s friends or his or her date. Set clear curfews that ideally match each others. It’s a lot easier to say to a teen: “We all feel…” Many parents meet prior to a prom and grad night to agree on rules and the “plan.” Many parents also join together to have dinner parties in their own homes (the junior class can be the waiters) and after-prom parties that are safe and alcohol free.
3. Set boundaries and clear rules
“No drinking, coed sleepovers. Be where you say you will be – no leaving the prom.” Set a curfew, and clear consequences about breaking those rules. You also may want to review rules on photo taking – “Only pictures from a professional photographer” should be permitted. You don’t want inappropriate photos of teens plastered on their Facebook pages and seen by the rest of the world the following day (and every other day of their lives).
4. Say NO to hotel room rentals!
You know teens will not be ordering tea and crumpets with these hotel room rentals. Say NO! If you do agree, remember you are libel for the safety of those kids as well as the hotel property (which is usually on your credit card.)
5. Don’t underrate your influence
Parents are the primary influence on their teens so you must talk about your expectations and your concerns. Research finds that parents who talk about the dangers of drinking with teens have teens who did much less drinking (compared with students who didn’t have that “talk” with their parents). You should be talking about alcohol many times anyway. These big nights are just more opportunities.
6. Use a news story to connect the dangers to a real issue
Our “lectures” or talks about what happened in the “old days” don’t connect with teens, but often actual events do. So try combing the news to find a real story as your talk opener. “Did you hear sad story about what happened to the teens at their prom night?” (Unfortunately there are tragic stories every May and June about teens in car crashes so search the news). Talk about how drinking and drugs can cause you to lose your inhibitions, do things you might regret later, and even lead to accidents and death.
6. Cut out the driving
Consider renting a limo or designating a driver who is not going to drink. I swear the best money spent on prom night is not the dress or tux or hairstyle but renting a limo. It’s safer and more fun to share the cost as a group, and also gives parents piece of mind.
Limos might be costly, so what about a “cool” older brother or cousin serving as the designated driver for everyone?
7. Review party and drinking safety and again
No matter how hard schools try, alcohol seems to find it’s way to a prom or an after-prom party.
So review “party safety smarts” with your teen which she or he needs to know anyway. (These are critical lessons our teens will need when leaving home and for the rest of their lives so review!)
Keep in mind that this information does not mean you’re giving your teen permission to have sex, to drink, etc. You’re giving a back-up plan to keep him or her safe in those horrid “just in case” scenarios.
Date rape drugs are also part of the bad party scene. You can teach a teen to hold even a glass of ice water with cubes so it appears like a drink. Giving an excuse, “I have a headache” also works. “I don’t drink” is the goldmine comment, but most teens say that one is hard. Peer pressure is huge.
Here are a few things you might consider reviewing with your teen:
- Always watch your drink being made. Never drink from an open container.
- Keep your drink in your hands at all times. Teach the drink rule: “Put it down, don’t pick it up.” Stress that this is the one time you don’t want your kid to share: don’t pass your drink or take a drink from someone. Teaching a few peer pressure strategies for a party are always helpful like how to gracefully “lose” a drink, pretend to sip, or the “gentle spill” (I still use that one).
- If you feel funny, nauseous, don’t wait to get help. Tell a friend to help you. Text the parent or responsible adult. Call a taxi. Dial 911. Always leave your address with dispatcher or friend. Don’t leave a friend.
9. Remind your teen to be careful with those tweets!
As my pal and uber-tech-smart Sue Scheff admonishes: “Remind your teen to be wary about those photo-op moments.” Don’t post anything online (Facebook, Twitter, e-mail, text) that you might regret later. Your future reputation is your online reputation. Chances are that would-be employer, college admissions officer, military recruiter or even in-law won’t appreciate a photo of you with a drink in your hands. Don’t click!
10. Create “just in case” safety nets
We need to make sure our teens know what to do if they are in a tough situation and they can always turn to us as an “out.” You want your teen home safely.
- Make a safety “what if” plan. Discuss with your teen about what to do if he/she finds himself in a situation where alcohol (or any other problem that he knows could be trouble) is present.
- Set up a secret code that he can use to text you. It will help him save face with his friends. No teen wants to make a phone call to a parent when a peer might be there to overhear. So tell you teen: “If you text ‘555’ I’m going to come and get you — and whoever else needs a ride, ASAP. No lecture — just a huge “thank you” that you called.”
- Assign an older sibling to be the designated driver.
- Stress, you are available. He can call or text you at any time, and that you will be awake and available to come, without judgment.
- Give the phone number and money for a cab. Give options!
Then don’t forget to remind them to enjoy their big night. Prom and graduations is a once-in-a-lifetime experiences that every adolescent should enjoy —and come home safely!
I am an educational psychologist, parenting expert, TODAY show contributor and author of 22 books. You can also refer to my daily blog, Dr. Borba’s Reality Check for ongoing parenting solutions and late-breaking news about child development