Now that we have dealt with the emotional roller coaster of Prom, its time to talk about the safety issues of prom night. Expectations, expectations, expectations. This is night that has been planned for months, down to the most finite detail. Not least of which is how to sneak, hide, and invent new ways to party so the adults won't catch them. A few years ago it was water bottles. Teens, feigning dehydration, brought in their innocent looking water bottles into the prom party. No need to even hide their drinking, it was "just water". It didn't take long for the chaperones to figure out that ploy as kids vomited all over the dance floor, and passed out.
Moving on, this year, a few students ate some brownies, a lovely gift from mom to snack in the limo. Only these brownies may have come from mom's oven, but not mom's recipe, being full of pot. The kids still throwing up on the dance floor, (must have been some pretty strong pot) were sent by ambulance to a local hospital. Let's just say, there will now be no food or drink allowed into the prom. So much work, such creativity, all in the name of getting high.
The message here is that teens are extremely motivated to find new and different methods of partying before the party. I remember a community drug/alcohol committee I served on many years ago. Around prom time, the committee met with the group that included a number of high school students. When asked about a "sober prom" all the students said that kids would almost rather not go to the prom if they couldn't party before fearing they wouldn't have fun if they weren't drunk. That just made me so sad.
There is work to be done here. Below are some tips on helping your teen have a safe prom night:
"I Get It" Opportunities:
- I am so excited for you.
- I know how much fun you are going to have.
- I know there will be some situations that you have never been in before, lets figure out what they might be and put a plan together.
Prom proofing your home:
- Lock up all alcohol and prescription drugs
- You drop off your teen's backpacks and sleepover bags to houses they will be going to either pre-prom or post-prom. (This helps with the hidden contraband kids pack in their backpacks)
- If kids come to your house to pre-prom. Supervise. This is when a lot of kids try to imbibe since they can't drink in the limos anymore.
- Before kids get back from the prom do a search around yard, bushes, sheds for any alcohol that may have been hidden earlier in the day
- If kids come to your house to post-prom, be the keeper of the backpacks and bags. Stay up all night if you are having an all night sleepover. One parent I know made it a requirement that all parents whose kids were coming to her house after the prom had to call her personally to let the parents know the rules of the house. No cars, parents were responsible for picking their kids up in the morning. This guarded against any kids sneaking out and possibly driving to get booze or drive drunk. Any teen caught with alcohol would have to be picked up by the parents immediately.
- For those parents who think it's ok to let kids drink in your house to celebrate prom night as long as you take their car keys thinking you are now the "responsible parent" Listen up. First of all it is not your right to make a decision about kids that are not your own to drink. That is every parents right and responsibility to make their own rules and expectations about alcohol and drug use for their own kid. Also just because you are giving them "permission" and may have purchased the booze, don' think that means that kids will drink responsibly. That just means kids are going "yippee" we can get trashed! Getting trashed also means getting sick, passing out, getting alcohol poisoning, falling, tripping, get the picture? Also what happens if one of those kids you have given"pemission" to drink has a medical condition you don't know about, and alcohol exacerbates it and there is a medical crisis. And finally, IT IS ILLEGAL TO GIVE MINORS ALCOHOL.
Prepare and help your teen plan for:
- Getting in a car with someone who is buzzed.
- Unwanted sexual advances
- Drinking and drugs at a house party
Strategies and scripts for getting out of unsafe situations:
- Make an "escape plan" using text message code word
- I'm allergic, alcohol makes me sick
- My boyfriend/girlfriend wouldn't want me to fool around with anyone else
- My parents drug/alcohol test me
- Thanks I don't need a ride, I'm going with someone else
- I feel like crap, I'm going home
If things get out of hand, and a friend is out of control and wants to drive:
- Get a few friends together and grab the keys from the kid who shouldn't be driving.
- Text the parent in the house that there is a problem in the basement, or outside
- Go to the bathroom....for a long time. Text me, and I will meet you around the corner
Proms are fun and are memory makers. Really, don't be scared with everything I just wrote. I just want you to be prepared, and for you to prepare your teen. When you "get" that this night can be full of surprises, and that the awesomeness of it all can make it hard to stay safe, you are being smart. Be excited with your teen, and help them to be safe.