Prom, a night to hang out with friends and celebrate, is one of the highlights of high school for many students. Unfortunately, the risk for tragedy increases when those celebrations include alcohol, drugs or distracted driving.

When it comes to prom, graduation or any party your teen attends, it’s important to talk with your kids about safety ahead of time.

“Kids can really get themselves in trouble with alcohol quickly, and, obviously, the decisions that kids make when they’re under the influence of alcohol or drugs can be quite different than they would make when they are sober,” says Dr. Pilar Bradshaw.

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, teens whose parents talk to them regularly about drugs and alcohol are 42-percent less likely to use those substances than kids whose parents do not have those discussions.

Starting the conversation
Talk with your teen about dealing with peer pressure, the dangers and repercussions of underage drinking and driving, and using illegal substances. Inquire specifically about their plans for the evening and if there are any post-prom celebrations that have been planned. Ask if they have any concerns or apprehensions about prom night. Listen to what they say and clearly communicate your expectations.

“Ask questions and give your opinion on what behavior you hope to see,” says Dr. Bradshaw. “And even if your kids act like they’re not listening, it’s going in. So, keep talking, that is the key.”

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.

“It’s really important for teens who have a cell phone to have a text that they can send to you that says, ‘Get me out of this.’ It could just be an ‘X,’ or whatever you decide. It’s really important for kids to have a graceful way out of a situation when they’re feeling uncomfortable.”

Talk with other parents
Speak directly with any parents supervising after-parties your teen will attend, since some parents may allow underage drinking.

If you are hosting a party, make sure it is well supervised. Greet kids as they come to the door, so you know who is there. Be aware that, not only is it illegal to serve alcohol to minors, parents can be liable for anything that happens to a minor who has been served alcohol or other drugs in their home. If anyone brings alcohol or other drugs into your home, be prepared to contact their parents. And if someone comes to your home already intoxicated, make sure they get home safely.

Think before you plan
Often, proms are held at local hotels, and it’s common for parents to reserve rooms for their teens, so that they don’t have to drive home after the event. Unfortunately, Dr. Bradshaw says, these decisions may come with unintended consequences.

“If you do not want your kids to have sex, don’t get them a hotel room. Don’t do anything that encourages your teenagers to behave in a way that you’d rather they not.”