The Do's and Don'ts of Prom Season

Written by fatherfrank  |  09. April 2002

Spring is here and the school year is quickly winding down. Many students and teachers are already beginning the rigorous preparations for the regents. On a less academic front, high schools are also already planning junior and senior proms, senior banquets and end of the year awards dinners.
Students are already planning pre and post prom parties and all the other social activities that have become associated with the senior prom experience. On some scales, the senior prom experience has become bigger than a wedding and overly costly.
The senior prom and/or the senior banquet was supposed to be that final social gathering with one's graduating class. It was an occasion where people came together to celebrate, remember, reminisce and have fun. Students dressed up formally, took pictures, had a great meal in the converted high school gym or local catering hall, danced and made fun of each other for the last time before graduation.
However, the intimacy of that folksy end of one's high school career has become an extravaganza that tends to have no limits or boundaries.
Today most senior proms are held in fancy banquet halls or hotel ballrooms. The attire is formal - black tie and evening gown get ups that cost a fortune even to rent.
Today's prom bids could cover the cost of a one-way ticket to Europe. How many $150 a plate dinners don't get eaten or even touched? Much of the finely prepared food is thrown out.
The pre-prom gatherings used to be for picture taking. Now in many circles they are sophisticated cocktail parties, allegedly without alcohol, but we all know that is often not totally true. Even if parents are adamant about an alcohol-free gathering, most students are pretty clever in finding a creative way around it.
The post-prom gathering used to be a late night/early morning breakfast at the local diner or a friend's house. Now it is a series of expensive adventures usually beginning with a comedy club or some kind of dance club. Then, depending on your geography, it ends with either a suite of rooms in Montauk, the Hamptons or New York City for the weekend. And of course, these high school coeds expect their weekend adventure to be without any responsible adult supervision.
The times, they are a changing! As parents, we need to slow down and remember that we are talking about high school seniors, not graduating college students. Most are chronologically between the ages of seventeen and nineteen. They may think and act like they are twenty-five, but they are not old enough to vote or be drafted.
As parents, we have an obligation to set some social parameters when it comes to prom time. It should not be one long, lost weekend. Teenagers are teenagers! They should have fun but within some reasonable boundaries. A sanctioned drunken orgy is not appropriate.
Unsupervised, reckless teenage behavior is dangerous for everyone. High school seniors need to be called to a higher standard. Prom bids, formal dress, limos, flowers and pictures are expensive. No high school senior should think the prom experience is an entitlement. Seniors should pay for this last hurrah or at least earn most of it as a gift. The money spent today on the prom experience is scandalous. So much of that money is a rip off. That is not to say that the prom experience should not be a classy, fancy grand finale event to four years of high school. However, if planned and executed differently, it could still be a glamorous evening that is a fun filled night to remember, but more cost effective.
Probably more disturbing than the expense is the attitude about prom season. It is the unwritten expectation on the part of most prom goers. They see the prom as an evening or weekend of endless partying without supervision where anything goes.
Unfortunately, a growing number of parents perpetuate this attitude by their silence and mindless compliance because they don't want to be in conflict with their kids. As parents, we need to take a clear and firm position on the "do's and don'ts" of prom season. I am not advocating a return to the dark ages or the Puritanism of the seventeen hundreds. However, I do believe there needs to be a middle ground.
What is the middle ground? Now that is the hard call for some parents. For me, it is not so hard. It is not real popular, but as far as I am concerned, as parents we don't have any other choices.
Clearly the prom weekend should be drug and alcohol free. Parents and school officials should take whatever steps necessary to insure that kind of environment. Inevitably, some students will try to get over on us, but few will try if they know that the consequences for non-compliance are serious and enforceable. They won't be happy, but for the most part, they will be compliant.
Supervision is another important but delicate variable in this prom experience equation. No supervision on our part is reckless and irresponsible. High school coeds in large numbers are going to take the path of least resistance and have fun at all costs, whatever that means. Thus, unsupervised weekends in Montauk, the Hamptons or Manhattan present serious difficulties.
In fairness to our seniors, parents should not wait until the final hour to talk to their prom goers about all prom arrangements. Parents should listen carefully and honestly to their children. Their expectations of their children should be very clear and enforceable. Ridiculous expectations that cannot be met will only damage what little credibility you have with your children.
The senior prom should be among one's most memorable events. It should not be a lost weekend, but an opportunity to celebrate, have fun and remember the great moments of one's high school career.

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