What's New About Prom Night?

Learn how proms have changed over the years, and what teens expect from this social outing.

One thing hasn't changed from your day: the prom is still a big social deal. But proms have changed to become more expensive, less safe, and yet, in many communities, more open. Here's the news:

No date for the prom? No problem. In today's world, going with friends can be just as fun (and may be less stressful for everyone). If your teen doesn't have a date and isn't sure whether or not to go, be encouraging. (Saying, “In my day, no one went unless they had a date,” is what not to do.)

You also need to accept that prom night should not be like any other night. A later curfew is in order and special privileges—within reason—are probably part of the deal. However, vigilance on your part will help make it work out safely.

Once your teen decides to go to the prom, your ears should be permanently perked. Prom plans will change at least five hundred times, but it's important that you stay on top of what your teen has in mind. (Some of the less positive prom developments include parents who rent hotel rooms for teen couples; the practice of over-drinking and club-hopping; and the pressure to "do it" on prom night.) If your teen's got your voice in his ear as the kids make decisions about what to do that night, he'll be better off for it.

Your teen will want to link up with others, and safety will be less of an issue if she links up with a safe crowd (a basically good group of kids who generally have pretty good judgment). If she's booked to go to the prom with a group who walks on the wild side, you may need to impose an earlier curfew than you normally might. Getting her home at a certain time is about your only protection that she won't do something reckless—other than trusting in her good judgment.

Though it may seem expensive, ordering a limo to shuttle your teen and his friends to and from the prom might be a good idea. It offers great safety benefits: a responsible adult will be driving the kids, meaning there's no chance a 17-year-old who is drinking will be at the wheel that night. To reduce per-person expenses, suggest that three couples share the limo instead of just two.

Talk to other parents about safe after-prom options. Some ideas include:

  • Is someone willing to open their home to an after-prom party? If you're game, you can suggest that a group come to your house for Chinese take-out—or that the boys (in a nice role reversal) put together an elegant dinner for the girls.
  • Is there an all-night restaurant where teens could go for a late dinner or early breakfast?
  • Someone with older teens may have some great suggestions of things that have worked in the past.

Remember that you cannot make these plans for your teen and her friends, but you can seed your conversation with suggestions of what you've heard others have done.