Parents: Talk to your Teen about Prom Expectations

Sparkling lights, showy gowns, and the much anticipated slow dance—for teens, these terms all signify that prom is just around the corner. And, to many parents, this event is when teens across the nation may face increased peer pressure to live up to the night’s unrealistic expectations.

For some parents, it’s easy to worry about your teen engaging in a range of destructive behaviors on this “night to remember”; from unplanned romantic interludes to underage drinking, prom night has been crudely portrayed as the ultimate high school party, prompting young people to believe that this night defines their entire high school career. This attitude of indulgence appears in movies like American Pie to High School Musical 3, and molds your teen’s impressions of what is, ultimately, just a dance.

Still, the excitement of and preparation for prom night can present an excellent teachable moment with your teen. Use this time to help your teen think critically about the event, their plans for the evening and the positives of what the night entails. Initially, bringing up risky behaviors may feel forced, but by referencing a personal story from your own prom experience—while maintaining certain personal boundaries—you can help your teen feel comfortable and willing to share. Most of all, keep an open mind throughout the discussion; if your teen chooses to share with you, they will quickly regret their decision if you respond with negative body language and assumptions.

Encourage safe communication with your teen, and let them know that you are always available to listen to their concerns. Don’t try to change them or force your beliefs on them; instead, by create a policy of open communication you have the best chance to engage with the culture and positively influence their decisions.

Let them know that prom night is not a precursor for sex. Although prom creates an atmosphere of romance and excitement, sex should never be an expected activity to top off the magical experience. Talk to your teen about establishing expectations with their date. By taking the initiative to discuss the night beforehand, your teen and their date can establish healthy boundaries and demonstrate respect for one another’s emotions and bodies. Gently remind them that there is life after prom and that in all things, they should use their critical judgment for anything that happens that evening.

Finally, enjoy—and celebrate—the night with your teen. For teens, prom may seem like the event of the year. Encourage them to enjoy their experience while reminding them of everything else they have achieved. At this time of the year, their high school graduation is just around the corner and their acceptance to college is secure; stressing these successes will help your teen put prom night into perspective. Prom is a marker in their adolescence, not a defining point for their high school memories or achievements.

By starting the conversation with your teen now, you will help them navigate the emotions, pressures, and great expectations of prom night.

Need more information on how to discuss the intensified feelings of love and lust teens experience on prom night? Check out our ‘Twitterpated’ article here.

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