Keeping Your Child Safe Around Prom and Graduation Time

First, here are some general guidelines in discussing drinking with your teenage children:

  • Know where your child plans to go and with whom. Discuss the possibility that alcohol will be present, and emphasize to your teenager that underage drinking is illegal, that alcohol abuse is dangerous and that underage drinking is unacceptable to you.
  • You may want to work with the school or other parents in your community to plan an alcohol-free pre- or after-party. You may choose to invite your child’s friends over for an alcohol-free pre-prom or post-prom celebration and picture taking session.
  • Find out where the kids are going before and after the prom, and if the setting will be supervised.
  • Determine if another house your child plans to visit will have alcohol available.
  • Know where the alcohol is in your house and how much you have so that you can monitor potential consumption.
  • If your child will be part of a group of teens who chip in and rent a limousine, check with the limo company to make sure there is a policy that addresses underage riders and the consumption of alcohol in their cars.

Starting Conversations

Newspapers often carry stories of adolescents who were caught drinking alcohol during prom and graduation festivities and the adults who were deemed responsible.  These stories can often be used as conversation starters, whereby parents can broach the subject of underage drinking with teens of any age.

In 2005, Michigan high school students who had been drinking alcohol in a limousine prior to their prom were pulled over at the dance, given Breathalyzer tests and then ticketed by the police. They were subsequently suspended by their school, prohibited from partaking in Honor Society rituals or team sports, fined, and made to appear in court. Ultimately, these teens were sentenced to probation and community service.

The Middle Adolescent (ages 15–17)

During the middle-adolescent years, teenagers struggle more with peer relationships and emancipation from their parents. The search for peer acceptance, the struggle for independence from parents, and the testing of limits can consume these years, making middle adolescence a challenge for any parent. Many of the serious problems of adolescence — associated with experimentation with drugs, tobacco, drinking, and sexual activity — occur during these years as teens seek to define their own identities.

Some middle teens may actually be invited to the prom as guests of older teens.  Parents will want to have a conversation with their middle teen about how to handle himself/herself, especially if drinking is involved. Middle teens invited to the prom by an older date tend to be starry-eyed and easily influenced by the older teen’s behaviors.

Teenagers at this stage may be more easily influenced by peer pressure to drink alcohol with their older friends. A particularly dangerous situation may arise if the teen’s date has been drinking alcohol and then initiates unwanted sexual conduct.

Some questions to get the conversation started in this area could be:

  • Tell me more about who is taking you to the prom. Where exactly will you be before, after, and during the prom? What will you do if your date decides to drink and you become uncomfortable?
  • Make sure your child has a way to reach you if he/she is concerned, and wants to come home early. Role-play, in advance, some sample refusal conversations that your child can use if he/she wants to assert himself/herself and not participate in risky behaviors.

Planning Prom Safety Checklist

  • Who will be doing the driving? Will they drive themselves or rent a limo?
  • If driving themselves, keep a list of names and phone numbers of each teen rider, along with names and addresses of all the parents. Insist that the car radio be kept at a low volume, limit the number of teen passengers to minimize distractions for the driver, and require each teen to buckle up his or her seatbelt.
  • Get a complete itinerary, including who your teen will be partying with, addresses and phone numbers for the prom location as well as any after-parties your teen plans to attend.
  • If your teen will be renting a limo, be sure to check the limo company’s driving record, and don’t be afraid to ask the company to provide it to you.
  • Does your teen know how to contact you throughout the evening? Consider arranging specific check-in times, and make sure you can contact your teen throughout the entire night.
  • Communicate with your teen specifically about how she would handle difficult situations such as being offered a ride by an intoxicated driver, being offered alcohol or drugs, or pressure to have sex. Be sure to provide parental instruction on how best to deal with problems that may arise.
  • Insist that there are to be no changes made to the itinerary without your prior approval, and make that a firm rule with no exceptions allowed.
  • Find out who will be supervising the prom and after-parties. Be sure to speak directly with any parents supervising after-parties your teen wishes to attend, since some parents may allow underage drinking, and may not have the same set of morals and values that you do.
  • Consider volunteering to assist in supervising the prom or after-parties your teen will attend, which will help ensure there are enough responsible adults watching over the partygoers.
  • Have very specific and detailed conversations with your teen about alcohol consumption, driving under the influence, drug use and sex, as peer pressure often leads teens to use poor judgment before, during and after prom.
  • Make sure your teen has phone numbers to trustworthy cab companies programmed into his cell phone, and plenty of money to cover the cost of a cab ride, if deemed necessary for any reason.
  • Will someone in the home wait up until the teen arrives back home safely? If so, who?

Prom Safety Tips Checklist

Here’s a quick checklist of some things to keep in mind during prom weekend that will make things run as smoothly as possible!

  • Get a good night’s sleep each night in the week leading up to prom. This will make sure you look great for all of your pictures, but also that you’ll have enough energy to make it through.
  • Be in school. Classes will be held on the Friday before and the Monday after the prom.
  • If you are going to pre or post prom receptions, make sure they are ALCOHOL FREE!
  • Be aware of the risks associated with unsupervised parties held in homes, hotel rooms, and party buses.
  • Keep your cell phone on you at all times and remember to have it fully charged (or keep a friend with a cell phone close, or money for a pay phone/cab). Check in with your parents every once in a while – they’ll feel better knowing that you’re safe, and you’ll feel better knowing that they’re just a call away if you need them!
  • Have a “prom buddy” and stick with them! Whether it be making sure your tie is straight, your hair is in place, or that there’s no lipstick on your teeth. Keeping a good friend close will help you to have fun, and stay safe!
  • Always have a “Plan B”! It could be something as small as getting a stain on your tux during dinner, or something more serious like feeling sick or getting stranded! Prepare an alternate plan for when things don’t go exactly how you pictured them – carry your tideto-go, and have your parents on speed dial!
  • Discuss your prom weekend plans with friends beforehand. If there’s an activity you’re not comfortable participating in, don’t feel pressured to do so! Grab a few close friends and have a prom weekend celebration of your own. There are many great ways to make your graduation memorable!

Have fun. Keep things in perspective. Of course every minute detail won’t go exactly as planned, but that’s part of the fun! If you’re a few minutes behind, have a last-minute emergency, or your date forgets something he/she shouldn’t have – try not to dwell on it! Focus on having fun, and being safe!

What to have on Prom Night:
  • Tide-to-Go
  • Camera
  • Cell phone – make sure someone knows where you are.
  • Cab money
  • A quarter (pay phone)
  • Travel sewing kit
  • Breath mints/Gum
  • Band-aid
  • Lip-gloss
  • Back-up plan
  • Hairspray
  • Hair elastic
  • Nail polish
  • House key in case you decide to go home
  • Mini-deodorant stick
  • COMMUNICATION with parents/guardian
  • Double-sided tape
  • Emergency Phone numbers
  • INDEPENDENCE i.e don’t feel pressured to go with the flow if you don’t feel safe
  • Powder compact or oil-blotting papers
  • GOOD JUDGEMENT i.e. do not get in a car with any one under the influence of drugs/alcohol
  • A good time!

Tips to Keep Your Teen Safe this Prom Season

High school proms can be extremely expensive affairs after adding up prom tickets, dresses, tuxedos, limos, dining, flowers, special hair-dos and manicures. However, it’s the risky behaviors often associated with prom that can be the most costly.

There should definitely be a conversation between teen and parent before prom. Teens put lots of thoughts into their outfits and flowers, but there should also be planning with parents into the logistics of the night. It’s important to place attention on safety and good decision-making in order to promote a healthy, memorable experience. Times of the event, after-prom activities, transportation, checking in, avoiding alcohol and drugs and the pressure to have sex are topics for discussion. Parents should also ask their teen what they are concerned about on prom night. Showing they trust their teen’s judgment will make their teen more likely demonstrate responsible behavior.

Help your teen identify risky behaviors by discussing about them. The major cause of death in this age group is motor vehicle accidents which are often related to alcohol use. These accidents are preventable if teens can make the right decision abut not using alcohol and drugs and not riding in a vehicle with a driver who is under the influence. SADD or Students Against Destructive Decisions has a “Contact for Life” that may be useful tool to review with your Discuss the pressure to have sex in accordance with your family values.

You could role-play some “what if” situations with your child to help them practice standing up to peer pressure on prom night. Your teen might laugh, but this might be a good way to start a conversation about these serious issues.  Here are some more tips to help your teen have a fun and safe prom:

  • Ask your teen for a detailed itinerary for prom night including venues, times and contact numbers
  • Know exactly what after-prom activities are taking place and where—if at a friend’s house, call the parents to confirm and make sure that alcohol will not be present.
  • Establish an agreed-upon curfew
  • Meet your teen’s prom date prior to the big night
  • Know the names of each individual in your teen’s prom group
  • Make sure your teen will have a charged cell phone that is turned on with them at all times
  • Set up established “check-in” times when your teen will call you
  • Provide an “out” for your teen, a contact number of someone they can call at anytime to get home or get help, to have on hand before prom
  • Remind your teen not to use alcohol or drugs or ride in a vehicle with anyone under the influence
  • Discuss the pressures to have sex with your teen beforehand in accordance with your family values


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