Prom night and graduation are special events. Many young people will tell you, the most exciting part isn’t so much the dance or the ceremony as it is the parties that often follow. Unfortunately, the risk for tragedy increases when those celebrations include alcohol, drugs or distracted driving. As the mom of two teenagers and a pediatrician to many more, I urge parents to plan ahead and do the following:
- Find a parent in your child’s friend group who will host a “dry” party—absolutely no alcohol allowed—or host one yourself. It’s important that the host parent stays on the premises throughout the entire party. Greet kids as they come to the door, so you know who is there. Remember, if you are the homeowner where minors are drinking alcohol, you are legally responsible if they get hurt or hurt someone else.
- Be sure you know where your child will be during the night. Discuss their plans, who they will be with, the routes they will be driving, and what time they will be coming home.
- Make sure your teen’s cell phone is fully charged before they leave the house.
- Don’t rent your kids a hotel room (yes, lots of parents do this). It’s developmentally inappropriate for teens and often creates unintended consequences.
- Talk with your teen about your expectations—that you expect them to make good choices, including not drinking, using drugs or having sex. Even if your kids act like they’re not listening, they are hearing you. So, keep talking. This may be a hard conversation to start, so ask your pediatrician for help if you are hesitant.
In addition, be sure to create a plan with your teen, so they feel comfortable contacting you for help if they get in a situation they don’t want to be in. Prom and graduation should be memorable, fun and safe experiences for young people. With preparation, we as parents, can help make that happen.