Some dread it, some countdown the days. For some, it's a highlight of thirteen years, some another social gathering that's awkward at best. Some will go only if they have a date, others go with friends. It can be a huge deal for some and a shoulder shrug for others. Regardless of opinions, prom stands as an American tradition. Prepping teens for this night, in light of their individuality, will prompt a healthier outcome.
Three "Prom-Types" and Parental Reactions
The Remote: These teens don't appear to have any interest.
Parental Reaction: Give each teen the freedom to be themselves. For some, the whole idea of prom is either ridiculous or a social event they want to escape. Some teens fare better never going than going and feeling left out or miserable. Let teens make the choice to refrain, if they wish. It really is a social event some personalities enjoy more than others. Perhaps, offer an alternative: dinner at a special restaurant and/or movies.
The Reluctant: These teens want to go, but feel awkward and concerned about the details.
Parental Reaction: Discuss feelings around the event. Lay out, with teen input, the pros and cons of going. Make suggestions to address concerns. Promote group attendance; point out the fun of going with friends versus a single date, which can add pressure. Discuss the outcome if they don't go. Then step back and support their decision within your guidelines. Try not to voice a personal opinion, but respect theirs. They will live with the results and be satisfied if there is not pressure added by parents. They may already be experiencing outward or inward pressure about the decision. Be supportive and a sounding board to help sort through the feelings and pressure (perceived or imagined).
The Raptured: These teens live to be at prom. It was a "must" from the first mention.
Parental Reaction: Give support and set healthy boundaries, including budget and details — dress, dinner, after prom, etc. These are the teens that may need infusing with reality and perhaps, some perspective. They may be disappointed as dreams catapult this night into a movie set with supernatural happenings: hoisting them to popularity or a dance with a secret crush. This night will come and go much like the rest of their high school careers. Whatever that means for them, they can have fun. Attempt to help limit potential disappointment by discussing expectations.
Encourage your prom-goer to make this a night for responsible choices; a time to celebrate with friends the accomplishments of their school years. Celebrate the milestone, but make decisions you will be proud of in twenty years. It is a "tradition," but will not be the most important night of their life, so don't abandon healthy decisions or pin hopes and dreams on its outcome. If your prom-aged one stays home, support them and remind that there are more important evenings in their future.