It’s an exciting time, a milestone that marks a transition into adulthood. A cap and gown, a tuxedo or prom dress, and a night of celebration are par for the course. Yet as much as you want your teen to enjoy a memorable night out, any mami wants to make sure that it’s as safe a night as can be. What rules should we set down? How much freedom should our teens have? Here are seven things to talk about with your teen that will help you set ground rules for prom and graduation night.
1. DRUGS & ALCOHOL
On the one hand, you might think that staying sober on prom night or during graduation festivities is an unlikely scenario. But the statistics demand every mother’s attention: According to Statistic Brain, 53% of students “had more than four drinks on prom night.” And 376 teens “died in an alcohol-related accident on their prom night in 2005.” Talking to your teen is key: the Students Against Destructive Decisions (SADD) website offers a Prom Tool Kit that includes key topics to discuss with your child before prom, as well as a Contract for Life that parents and kids can read together and sign.
Frequently, teens view milestone events like prom and graduation as an occasion to celebrate with another perceived milestone: sex. Whether it’s their first time, or first encounter with a new boyfriend or girlfriend, kids may include sex as part of the night’s festivities. However nerve-wracking it might be, put aside time to calmly and openly talk to your teen about the issues—abstinence, peer pressure, date rape, and STDs (sexually transmitted diseases).
Read Related: How to Talk to Your Teenager About Sex
3. RISKY BEHAVIOR
Sex, drugs, and alcohol aren’t the only risks facing your kids when they venture away from the nest to celebrate prom or graduation—even if they are factors that influence poor judgement and bad decisions. Whether it’s drunk driving or “cutting loose” some other way, the website First Things First reports that “prom nights are among the most lethal for young people. More than 5,000 teens are injured or killed in a typical prom weekend.” Talk to your kids about risky behavior, like drunk driving, sexting, and playing “games” (last year, CBS News reported about dangerous game-playing that can cause injury and even death to kids, such as the “Cinnamon Challenge”).
4. PARTY COMPANIONS
Who will your teen be partying down with on prom and graduation night? As a loving mami, you have the right to know, and having an idea of who your kid is hanging out with will help you to keep apprised of their activities and be organized in your approach should you lose touch with your teen. If you’re friendly with the parents of fellow revelers, reach out to them to discuss how they’re managing their concerns. If you’re not, this is a great reason to introduce yourself and put your collective heads together about curfew, designated drivers, and other issues.
5. THE AFTER-PARTY
Can you picture a prom or graduation after-party in a safe environment—not a hotel room—where responsible adults are nearby? Where the snacks and beverages are of the alcohol-and-drug free variety? Where your kids can be kids? Then talk to other parents about hosting an after-party at your house, where you can set down rules that you’re comfortable with, and your teens can celebrate prom or graduation in a safe environment.
We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: talk, talk, talk to your teen. If the party isn’t at Casa de Mami, then you need to sit down with your kid for a chat about curfew. Talk about the evening ahead and what the plans are, and settle on a curfew that you and your child are both comfortable with. Make sure to discuss the ramifications if your teen doesn’t stick to the plan.
7. STAYING IN TOUCH
These are the days when, other than being in the air or whizzing through a train tunnel, there is absolutely no reason your teen can’t touch base with you a few times throughout the night. Exploring phone apps and planning for this ahead of time (“I’d like a text from you when you leave the prom venue,” for example) will help avoid any miscommunications. Remember, as SADD reports, “research shows that good communication between parents and teenagers can have a positive influence on risk-taking behavior by teens.” In addition, “Teens who report regular, open communication with their parents about important issues say they are more likely to try to live up to their parents’ expectations and less likely to drink, use drugs, or engage in early sexual behavior.”