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How to keep your kid safe on prom night without being a buzzkill

The prom night drinking guide parents need whether they want it or not

Just as prom is a rite of passage for kids, it's also a rite of passage for adults — taking photos of their kids on the stairs, shedding a tear or two, waiting up for them at night full of memories of their own proms — and worrying even more! Prom is such a special occasion for kids, so the peer pressure to make bad choices is especially strong on prom night, especially when it comes to underage drinking.

My daughter's own prom is still a couple of years away, but last weekend my social feeds were flooded with friends' photos of their juniors and seniors headed to prom, so it seems like a good time to think about prom. Already, some of her friends have gone to parties where alcohol was present! My daughter says she doesn't like the taste of alcohol, but she's fifteen, and we all know how quickly that can change!

It's always tricky as a parent to get your kids to be responsible on prom night (or any party night) without sounding like a downer, but it's our job as parents to keep them safe. Here are some ideas to get you started.

1. It's never too early to begin the conversation about underage drinking

Don't wait till prom night to talk to your kids about drinking! Prom night may be special, but in terms of drinking, it's just one party night out of many, so be consistent. We've been having conversations with our kids about underage drinking for several years now. One of our family's special rituals is coming together at 7:00 a.m. to snuggle in bed and watch the morning news for 10 minutes. We like to use news events like car crashes as opportunities to talk to the kids about drinking and driving. You should definitely figure out a time when you and your teen can have a conversation specific to prom behavior — but if you've been keeping the lines of communication open, this should just be one conversation in a series of several that you've had over the years.

2. Set expectations for prom night

If you don't want your teen to drink during prom night, say so — but be very clear about it. My teen can turn into the sharpest legal analyst and find loopholes in my instructions when it suits her, so I always find it useful to spell everything out beforehand. No drinking, whether it's beer or cocktails or mixed drinks or spiked punch. No drinking, whether it's at the school gym or at a hotel room or at a private home. (Note, 29 states allow underage drinking on private, non-alcohol selling premises, with parental presence and consent — so make sure you explicitly withhold consent!)

3. Work on strategies for dealing with peer pressure beforehand

Have a pre-prom talk with your teen, and work together on things they can say and do if someone offers them a drink. Anheuser-Busch's Family Talk About Drinking has a great blog post with 10 Ways to Say No to Alcohol on Prom Night. One of my favorites is, "I have a game tomorrow — my coach will kill me!"

4. Communicate with your teen on prom night

My daughter hasn't gone to prom yet, but she has gone to several middle school dances and her first high school dance last fall. I made sure she had a cell phone each time and asked her to send me a text sometime during the night. I plan to apply the same rules on prom night! If your teens are off to prom, it's a good idea to provide them with a cell phone and ask them to send a text sometime during prom night. Send them a text or two, but you don't have to focus solely on drinking. Show genuine interest in what's going on — are they having fun? Ask your teen to send a photo of them having fun!

5. Create a backup plan (and be nonjudgmental about it!)

Make it clear to your teens that if the worst does happen and they end up at a party with teens who are drinking, they can always give you a call and you will pick them up and drive them home, from anywhere, at any time. Give them money for a cab, just in case they can't get hold of you. This is especially important if the person who is supposed to drive them home has been drinking!

In the end, I think it all boils down to having a strong connection with your child and keeping the lines of communication open. That's something you don't need to wait until prom season to work on!

Need more ideas and tips? Check out Anheuser-Busch's Family Talk About Drinking website. It's a great online resource for parents who want to raise their kids to drink safely and responsibly.

This post is sponsored by Anheuser-Busch and SheKnows.

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