Parameters for Prom Season

Prom Season is upon us. Anyone who is the parent of a junior or senior in high school dreads this time of year. One's senior prom and/or banquet is supposed to be a night filled ...

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Prom Season is upon us. Anyone who is the parent of a junior or senior in high school dreads this time of year. One's senior prom and/or banquet is supposed to be a night filled with memories to remember, not a nightmare to forget.

Unfortunately, the night that is supposed to be a joyful part of the senior experience is becoming more and more a lost weekend. The Prom experience begins with pictures, virgin cocktails and those laced with booze at a particular senior's home.

These senior coeds toast their special evening, which has become the advent of not just a night but rather an entire weekend experience.
Many senior prom goers spend over a hundred dollars on prom bids for an exquisite meal at a fancy hotel or catering hall that they don't eat. They wear formal evening gowns and expensive tuxedos that cost a fortune for a couple of hours of hanging out and dancing.

After the party of the year, many go as couples in large numbers in fifty different directions. Some head off to New York City to a comedy club, others head to a local diner, the beach and then to Great Adventure. Still others have booked multiple rooms in the Hamptons, where the partying without supervision will continue for the better part of the weekend.

We have still not talked about flowers, pictures, limos and possibly a videographer. Before the extravaganza has begun, our senior has spent thousands of dollars for a night that might ultimately turn out to be a blur in his or her memory bank.

If you were to talk to a senior about his or her prom, he or she would make mention of all of these activities as basic senior entitlements. They view them as automatic parts of the real prom experience. They would say it would not be a "real" prom without them.

What amazes me is that this is the thinking of many prom goers and their parents. Many see nothing wrong with this somewhat distorted picture of what is supposed to be a night to remember. Many seniors believe that the senior prom is a right they have and that they deserve all the attachments that go with it, even if Mom and Dad have to go into hock to pay for it.

After having countless conversations with average seniors, I have found that the senior prom goer believes the prom is a free-for-all weekend where they have the right to do what they want, where they want and how they want until they return home on Sunday evening.

In English that means no parental supervision. If they want to sleep over with friends out East, that should be fine. If they want to sleep on the beach (that prohibits sleeping over) that should be fine too. They also expect that other social rules should be suspended on prom weekend. Drinking and smoking pot should be tolerated because everybody does it. In short, many prom goers believe that they deserve this "lost weekend." They believe it is part of the American High School Experience.

Most of us want our seniors to remember their senior year fondly. The "prom" is one of those memorable experiences. However, it doesn't have to become a reckless human adventure with no parameters or boundaries.

As parents, we should do everything humanly possible to insure that our seniors have a safe and fun senior experience.

It is not a free-for-all weekend, where we as parents suspend our obligation to parent. Unfortunately, I think on this occasion many of us will probably have to work overtime.

Senior prom goers should look great, enjoy their party and have safe transportation to and from the prom. However, the prom goer should pay for most of it. The prom is not an entitlement. It is a wonderful social opportunity that needs to be earned and not handed to one on a silver platter.

There should be clear, reasonable boundaries for the evening. Yes, they can be stretched and amended to afford the senior additional freedom and opportunity, but they should not be totally suspended.

The average senior thinks he or she is a full-fledged adult. Many act as though they are, and make positive social choices. However, the reality of life is that our children are not totally independent in the eyes of the state until they are twenty-one. This means that if on prom night your son acts recklessly and breaks the law, you, as his parent, are going to be held accountable for his behavior. Therefore, it is reasonable and responsible to set some clear boundaries and limits.

It is not unreasonable to expect that pre-prom and post prom parties be supervised and that illegal behaviors not be tolerated. It is dangerous and unconscionable for us, as parents, to aid and abet parties that are not supervised and not to demand age appropriate behaviors.

All parents want their seniors to remember prom night with fondness. No one wants his or her night to be remembered as an evening that ended in tragedy or disaster.

This past year, far too many families have been marked by human disaster. Too many teenagers have lost their lives because of reckless decision making and casual thinking regarding some of our social laws.

Allowing an inexperienced teenager with a junior license to drive a car packed with his friends at night is reckless. Condoning a keg party for high school coeds, even if they are sleeping over, is irresponsible.

TJ was seventeen. He was to graduate in June. He went to a keg party. The parents were away. They sanctioned the party because everyone was staying over. It was not that out of control. However, TJ and a couple of buddies were very drunk and were playing around. One of TJ's buddies pushed him. TJ fell backwards and hit his head. A few hours later he died. It did not have to happen that way. His seat will be vacant at the prom and at graduation.

As parents, we need to be loud and clear as to what is acceptable behavior and call our seniors to that standard. Don't wait until the last minute. Ask your son or daughter now for his or her plans, so that everyone will not be in an uproar at the last minute.

We need to support each other and work with respective high schools to insure that all prom goers have an outstanding night to remember.