By Shomari B. Jackson, prevention specialist at Southwest Behavioral & Health Services
Take a moment and think back to getting ready for the biggest night of your high school life—prom! You spent weeks or even months making decisions with your friends and parents about finding the right outfit, having the right date and attending the right after party. For parents, assisting with this rite of passage can be extremely thrilling as well as a major source of anxiety.
Currently, teen driving deaths during prom weekend are at its highest than any other time of the year. This is why the South Mountain WORKS Coalition urges parents to discuss their concerns about being safe and sober during prom.
Discussing expectations, risky behaviors and safety plans before prom may ease your anxiety and help your teens understand the risk and consequences associated with prom celebrations, which often include sex, drugs and alcohol.
The simple truth is that some teens will participate in underage drinking and risky behaviors during prom festivities. Therefore, learn the do’s and don’ts to start the discussion about prom safety:
- Do initiate the conversation. While helping your teen prepare for prom, discuss expectations, behaviors and safety.
- Don’t talk down to your teen. Parents shouldn’t lecture or scare teens with gloomy and frightening possibilities, but parents don’t want to be too friendly. Find a balance.
- Do set boundaries about your expectations of your teen. Tell your kids it’s unacceptable to use drugs or drink alcohol and explain the penalty if they do.
- Don’t go back on your word once you have set your boundaries with your teen. These limits can be the key to a healthy relationship that will keep your kids safe.
- Do set a curfew, which may be later than normal days, but there should still be a cut off time for your teen to return home.
- Don’t give punishment too quick if your teens don’t meet expectations. Be sure you both sleep it off and discuss in the morning.
- Do keep it honest. Honesty is always the best policy when setting expectations for teens. Be open about your experiences or family history with drug and alcohol abuse.
- Don’t assume your teen is “too good” to use drugs and/or alcohol. It’s better to be safe than sorry, so always set your clear expectations.
- Do define what unacceptable risky behavior is. Talk about the risks and consequences of giving into peer-pressure.
- Don’t believe you can control everything. Being overbearing and controlling can create disconnect in your relationship with your child, which will increase the likelihood of your teen not asking you for help.
- Do utilize resources. Use websites, brochures, and other relevant information to help guide your discussion with your teen about sex, drugs and alcohol.
- Do discuss what to do in various situations. For example, explain what to do if someone brings alcohol to the party, and/or what to do if a friend is sexually abused.
- Don’t think your teen is too old to talk about scenarios even if it is an uncomfortable topic such as sexual abuse.
- Do ensure there is supervision during and after prom. Ask for contact information and addresses of all prom event supervisors as well as all the parents of kids who will be with your teen.
- Don’t forget to confirm with parents and event supervisors. With the chaos of prepping for prom it can be easy to forget to check in with parents and supervisors.
- Do create a contingency plan. Having a safe word/phrase such as “sorry I forgot to take the trash out” can help your teen get out of a situation without having to explain why they don’t want to do something.
- Don’t assume your teen will call if they are in a bad situation. Keeping in touch throughout the night with your teen may provide them the opportunity to tell you their concerns.
As your teen gets ready for prom remember that parents have the most impact on teens choosing to live a healthy lifestyle. Talking about expectations, behaviors, and safety can help make prom a positive and safe experience.
For additional information and resources, contact the South Mountain WORKS Coalition at 602-305-7126 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Author Shomari B. Jackson, ACPP I, is a prevention specialist at the Community Youth Development Program at Southwest Behavioral & Health Services in South Phoenix. Shomari works with the South Mountain WORKS Coalition facilitating youth leadership groups focusing on reducing underage drinking and drug use in the South Mountain community.