Help Your Teen Plan a Fun, Safe Prom Night

My daughter's senior prom is months away, and already I am in a panic. She and her friends want to take a room in the hotel where the prom is being held so they can party all night. I think this is a bad idea, but my daughter insists that all the other parents have agreed. Is it okay for high school seniors ages 16 and 17 to spend the night together in a hotel room? Am I crazy or the only sane parent around?

--A Parent Soup member

Times have changed. Teenagers today are more sophisticated, and what appealed to their parents seems passe to them. The modern-day prom bears little resemblance to the ones we recall, held in our high school gymnasiums with homemade decorations and themes like "Arabian Nights", and "Shangra-La". Most proms these days are held in fancy hotels, with crystal chandeliers substituting for crepe paper streamers. Limousines are the favored mode of transportation. Young women spend larger sums on prom dresses and accessories than their mothers spent getting outfitted for their weddings.

After-prom activities have changed too. Years ago, teens might have retired to a nearby diner for a late-night snack before heading home. Now, however, prolonging the party by staying overnight in a hotel seems to be the thing to do. Since hotels won't allow teenagers to book rooms, parents often see to these arrangements. Sound crazy? To some parents, yes. But to others, knowing where their teens are all night seems preferable to having them drive around without a destination. Some high school administrators, however, frown on these hotel stays. Many have sent out notices warning parents against this practice.

Companies that market to teens have fueled some of this prom frenzy. Special one-shot magazines with names like Prom Night help create a demand for prom-related goods and services. Needless to say, the price tag for this extravagant evening can threaten to bankrupt many a household budget.

Despite all the parental headaches, the high school prom still occupies a special place in the adolescent experience, so it's worthwhile to spend some time helping your teen plan a safe, enjoyable and memorable evening. Here are a few things to keep in mind.


Prom Do's and Don'ts

Talk with other parents. Perhaps other parents are as cautious as you are. Talk with them to see whether you are on the same wavelength.
Investigate alternatives. You may not be comfortable with the idea of a hotel, but understand the youthful urge to stay up all night. One possibility might be to host an all-night party for your daughter and some friends. One mother who did so found the party to be very successful. The young people changed into sweats, danced and watched videos until the morning. At dawn, other parents arrived with food for a fancy breakfast before driving their sons and daughters home.
Caution against alcohol. More than 40 percent of deaths of sixteen- to twenty-year-olds result from motor vehicle accidents. Almost 40 percent of these crashes were alcohol-related, according to Mothers Against Drunk Driving. Warn your daughter and her friends about drinking and using drugs. If you decide to host an after-prom party, be vigilant. Make sure no one brings in alcohol or drugs, and have plenty of nonalcoholic beverages available.
Arrange transportation. Even if your daughter and her friends are not drinking, they are apt to be tired from staying out late. Avoid problems on the road by arranging alternative transportation. You might hire someone to be the driver for the evening. In one town, the parents got together and rented a school bus. The teens decorated the bus and were able to ride around in comfort and style.
Share your own prom-related memories. It may be a long time ago, but you probably recall what you wore and whom you went with. This experience is a good one to share with your child and can lead to some interesting discussions and discoveries. Your daughter's expectations are bound to be high. Help her place the prom in perspective. There will be many other parties in her future, so she shouldn't be disappointed if the evening fails to match her fantasy.

Forget spending limits. Before your daughter breaks the bank, sit down and work up a budget. Are there ways you can reduce the costs so that you can both be happy?
Leave drinks unsupervised. Make sure your daughter knows not to leave her drink where someone can slip a drug into it. The date rape drug Rohypnol can leave a young woman helpless to resist rape and make her unable to recall the assault later on.
Fail to be available. Make sure your child knows where to reach you throughout the evening. If you plan on going out, take a cell phone with you and leave it on.

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