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Family Forum: Prom Angst

They want to party all night long; but should you let them?

Senior prom night is a high school right-of-passage, but the school-sponsored dance seems merely to serve as the warm-up to more intricate after-prom celebrations. These can extend for several days and include renting a house out east, the Jersey shore or Florida. That leaves parents facing difficult decisions about how much freedom to grant their teens while deflecting their classic defenses like, “I’ll be the only one who can’t go,” and “I’m going away to college soon anyway.”

No matter how much you trust your child, when emotions are high from imminent transitions, things can happen that they’re too young to handle.

“One of the challenges is that they don’t realize the trouble they could get into,” said Steven Ramsey, assistant principal at Walt Whitman High School in South Huntington.

Some parents argue their teen has had the same friends for 12 years and they’re all good kids. You can have confidence in your child and empathize with their arguments. But the ultimate issue is their safety in an atypical setting and the pressures from others that can endanger them. Bad things can and do happen even to mature teens when there’s a mixture of freedom, lack of parental supervision, cars, alcohol, drugs and non-consensual sex.

Therefore, when making a decision first consider how your teen handles peer pressure. Also, how openly have you both discussed topics like drinking and sex all along? If you don’t talk about potential problems with them they might not be prepared.

Don’t be afraid to say no. Some teens don’t want to go with their peers and may
appreciate being able to blame their parents for being unable to attend. In
that case offer compromises, like hosting a party with other parents and
driving them to the beach the next day.

If you do let your teen go to post-prom events, question them about every detail of their plans, said Shannon Dantuono, assistant principal of Northport High School.

“Reach out to the other parents and get involved in the process,” she said.

In this way, you can confirm the details and have a joint plan if someone needs help.

“Further, agree on a code word so if they feel things have gotten out of hand they can call you and know that no matter what time it is, you’ll be there for them,” Dantuono said.

Adds Ramsey: “Tell them to have their cell phone on all the time and do frequent
check ins with you. This isn’t the time for parents to be out of town. You need
to be close by if they need you.”

Additionally, contact your high school. Many, bowing to the reality of events beyond the school-sanctioned prom, are finding ways to create safer conditions. For
instance, Glen Cove High School held a mandatory assembly to remind students
about responsible decision making before their June 9 prom. Northport,
Huntington and Walt Whitman are holding their proms next week before graduation, which will help to put a damper on the post-prom revelry.

Liza N. Burby is Publisher of Long Island Parent Magazine and liparentonline.com

Liza N. Burby June 15, 2011 at 05:12 PM
What are some of the proposed prom plans you're hearing about and how are you handling it with your kids?
sara June 16, 2011 at 07:53 AM
the syosst highschool prom was an exciting beautiful event that took place at cipriano's in manhatten, the seniors all were responsible as well as the adults, they all mostly had private transportaton limos town cars etc, it was a memorable event for the seniors as well as the parents. there were pre prom parties hosted and supervised by the parents and grandparents. they all looked beautiful and handsome, they had a wonderful fun safe time and an awesome memory to cherish. good luck to all the graduating seniors class of 2011 of syoset highschool!
Liza N. Burby June 16, 2011 at 02:14 PM
That sounds wonderful. Other teens should hear that you don't need to go to Florida to enjoy prom night.

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