Prom: a rite of passage! Arguably the most important dance in high school and a night full of memories for parents and teens. I remember my senior prom, my parents made my friends and I line up in front of our home in our fancy clothes and make up to take countless pictures. Every once and a while I look back at the photos and think of how young I was even though I thought I had the world figured out.

With all the fun of getting dressed up and picking out the tuxedo and the dress, prom also has a reputation. Movies often portray prom night as a night full of parties, alcohol and substance use, and lost virginity. Though my prom was uneventful, some teens may have very different experiences.

The most important thing to remember is that prom is only one night, but the relationship and influence a parent has on their teen lasts a lifetime. Take the opportunity to talk with your teen about drugs, relationships, and your expectations of their behavior before prom night. Believe or not, teens actually do hear what their parents tell them, even if they don’t seem to be listening.  When talking with your teen, involve them in the conversation by asking what consequences they see as fair if they break the rules.

A big worry that comes up for parents is parties.  How do you know if a party is going to be safe, or if it’ll turn into something out of a movie with drinking, drugs, and sex?! My own parents had a rule: I could go to a party if a parent or legal adult was going to be there too.  They also made sure that they knew the address and phone number of the home the party was going to be held in and in the case of a hotel party, they made sure they knew which hotel I was going to (yes, they let me go to hotel parties).  Communication is key.  Talk to your teens about curfew, location, and identifying a designated driver (alcohol use, while not legal, is common among older teens). If you don’t want them to attend a party, tell them, but come up with alternatives together.  Prom is all about fun and all parents want their kids to build fond memories. Maybe they’ll choose to meet up with friends at a restaurant after prom instead of going to the house party of someone at school.

One topic that may be overlooked is remembering to talk about riding in a car with someone who is under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol. Accidents are one of the highest causes of death in teens and young adults! Give teens the option to call for a ride home that night if they find themselves in a situation that is unsafe… a parent can always provide consequences the next morning.

The American Academy of Pediatrics has a great resource for parents called Healthy Children. It gives tips for different stages of childhood including adolescence and young adulthood.