Parents' Guide to Prom: 6 Must-Discuss Topics

Talk to your teen about safety, peer pressure, and drinking on prom night to help keep your teen safe and in control.

Prom night can be one of the most exciting events of the year, but there are several topics you need to talk about before your teen heads out the door. We've outlined the must-have conversations about safety, peer pressure, and drinking on prom night to help keep your teen safe and in control.

Budget


Between the dress or tux, hair appointments, corsages, and transportation, prom expenses can snowball. Surveys have shown that the average American household spends nearly $1,000 on prom. That's a lot of cash! Talk to your teen about your budget and how much you are able to contribute early on. For example, maybe you are able to buy her dress and shoes, or can contribute a certain dollar amount overall. Make sure your teen understands that she is responsible for any costs that go beyond your set limit. Talking about your budget early on can help avoid any last-minute conflicts later on.
Teen Girl Trying on Red Prom Dress

Drinking and Drug Use


Let's face it — lots of teens drink at prom. This can be a tricky conversation to have, because while you want to send the message that you will not condone underage drinking, you also want him to feel comfortable calling you if he has been drinking and needs help getting home. Talk with your teen about your personal rules on drinking. Remind him that underage drinking is illegal, and drinking and driving can lead to severe consequences. Make sure that your teen understands that, while you hope he won't participate in any underage drinking, you are a safe person to call if he finds himself in a situation where he or any of his friends are too impaired to drive.

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, prescription and over-the-counter medications and pills are the most widely abused drugs (after alcohol and marijuana) by Americans ages 14 and over. Talk to your teen about the dangers of drug use, especially abusing pills and combining pills and alcohol. Be aware of these warning signs from The National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence if you're concerned your teen might be using drugs.

Close Up of Beer Bottles at Prom After Party

Peer Pressure


Talking to your teen about peer pressure shouldn't just happen before prom — ideally, it's an ongoing conversation. But, your teen might feel the need to live up to certain heightened expectations on prom night, whether it involves drinking, staying out past curfew, or having sex. Talk to your teen about resisting the urge to give in to what others think should happen. If your teen doesn't feel comfortable doing something, it's important that he feels confident enough to say no.
Group of Happy Teen Friends Going to Prom

Sex


For many teens, having sex on prom night might be something they think they "should" do. By now, your teen definitely knows the basics, but even so, having sex before she is ready can be devastating. Although talking about this topic may be uncomfortable for both of you, there are several key factors you should discuss, including STDs, birth control, the meaning of mutual consent, date rape, and how to say no. Try using these talking points as a way to get the conversation started.
Close Up of Teen Couple Going to Prom Wearing Corsage

After-Party Plans


Be clear about your teen's curfew on prom night. If your teen will be driving, remind him of your rules about having passengers in the car, and the dangerous consequences of drinking and driving. Make sure you know where your teen will be, whether or not other adults will be present, and how liberal those adults are when it comes to risky teenage behavior. For example, will your child be at a house party where drinking is allowed, as long as nobody leaves? How does that measure up to your personal views? Do you feel comfortable hosting an after-party in your own home? There are no set rules on the appropriate amount of supervision teens need — you can base that on your own knowledge of your teen and his friends' behaviors.
Happy Teenage Couple at Prom

Safety Plan


Finally, establish a safety plan with your teen so she knows how to deal with any problems or situations that may come up. For example, what will she do if her ride home has been drinking and can't drive? Or if she finds herself at a party where she doesn't feel comfortable? What if she has been drinking and can't drive herself home? Make sure your teen knows that she can call you at any time, no matter the circumstances. Designate yourself, or another trusted adult, as your teen's point person if she needs you.
Group of Teen Friends Posing for Picture at Prom