Many schools will soon be hosting their senior proms, and while we do need to be concerned about all the excess that seems inherent to the event – indulgent spending, drinking, wild behavior – proms can be fun and meaningful events for you both.
There are many good things about prom, and as a parent, it can be a wonderful time to bond with your son or daughter. In many ways, it represents their transition from childhood to adulthood. Just look at them all dressed-up! It is no exaggeration to say they look completely different.
Enjoy shopping for that long dress and getting fitted for the tux. Help with the hair, makeup and shoes. Review good table manners. Teach them how to put on a boutonniere or give a girl a corsage. Chances are it is the first time you and your teen have shared this kind of experience.
Most importantly, recognize they are no longer children but have grown into young men and women. They are not in elementary or middle school anymore. If we talk to them as if they are, we have little chance of communicating with them.
Let them know just how proud you are. This really is a big moment. They’ve been talking about it for over a year. Help them understand that with this transition to adulthood come some adult responsibilities. We have higher expectations than we would of children.
Explain that they do not need to make fools of themselves. There is no reason to do things they will regret or be embarrassed about later. We also expect they will look out for their friends and take care of them. They need to know how their date is getting to the prom, and then safely home. This is how a mature adult behaves.
Adults also stay in touch with each other. It is a sign of respect, and more than that, is just the way considerate people behave. You should not have to sit by your phone waiting for a call at 2 am. Tell them you expect text messages at certain points throughout the night. If they are going to an after party, they should text you when they arrive and when they are leaving. They need to be clear about what time they will be home – and keep to it or let you know.
Prom is filled with giddy excitement, and so many emotions. We watch as our kids – now all grown up – are whisked away in limos. All the trappings of adulthood are there. Use it as a teaching moment for all the adult events that lie ahead. Let them know we now expect them to behave like the adults they have become. People do rise to the occasion when it is presented the right way.
And don’t forget to have fun. Take your pictures. Smile, give hugs and send them on their way. It is the first step of many. We want them to continue to make us proud.
Barbara R. Greenberg, Ph.D.
Silver Hill Hospital
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