Tips for parents on surviving their kids' prom nights

Special to her magazineFebruary 28, 2013 

It's midnight, an hour away until your child's special prom night curfew. What are you doing -- praying, worrying, or struggling to stay awake? Maybe a combination of the three.

Prom night, and the buildup to it, can be fraught with all kinds of anxiety-provoking factors such as spending too much money and your child's safety.

When Savannah Olive, now a Smiths Station High School senior, went to prom last year, her parents spent a bundle of money.

"A child like mine wants a brand new dress, something unique," said her mother, Kim Olive. "That was our intent."

They spent about $400 on her dress, which Olive said is less than some people spend, more than others. She pointed to borrowing a dress or going to one of the organizations that accepts donated dresses as a way to save money on that big ticket item.

After the dress, there's shoes, hair, makeup, nails, and even a spray tan, in Savannah's case. Olive said you can get together with friends to have some of those things done. A military wife Olive knows through her Facebook page, Fort Benning Area Guide, did Savannah's hair and makeup.

One pointer Olive had for prom dress shoppers is to be careful when shopping online. "If the price sounds too good to be true, it probably is," she cautioned. "I would much rather go into a store and look for something right there, and see how it fits, and what needs to be done."

Although her date last year paid for the expense of eating out before the prom, when Olive's son went to prom, they paid for dinner. The boys last year even got together and rented a limo for the evening, which increased Olive's peace of mind but added to the price tag for the boys' parents.

Having realistic expectations for the night can be helpful to both parents and youngsters, according to a compilation of website found when searching "parents surviving prom night." Try not to build up one night to be the end-all, be-all of your teenager's life.

It's also important to talk safety with your child, both traffic safety and being careful to avoid being pressured into sex. According to the website www.lifespan.org, Dr. Larry Brown, with the Bradley Hasbro Children's Research Center, says short 15-minute talks about sex can be more effective than longer talks and won't leave your child feeling so overwhelmed. The same goes for talks about underage drinking and driving. (The children's research center is in Rhode Island.)

"It's worrisome," Olive said. "There are always chances people are on the road drinking and driving. I wasn't worried about her doing it, but you don't know what other people are doing."

Giving your child an out -- the ability to call you without getting a lecture if he or she gets into a problematic situation -- has helped many parents feel reassured about their child's big night.

Savannah's prom will be held April 11 this year, and she plans to go without a date, just with a group of friends. Savannah said she just wants to dance with her friends and have a good time. She's still searching for the perfect dress, she said.

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