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Last Dance: A Parent's Guide to Prom Night

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How to Prevent Prom-Night Drinking

Parents have the most impact when it comes to a teen's decision to use alcohol, so talk early and often about underage drinking prevention, says MADD National President Laura Dean-Mooney. Her tips can help ensure prom night stays memorable for the right reasons.

—Don't assume your kid is "too good" to drink. Even well-behaved teens can succumb to peer pressure.

—Do find a time when your teen is willing and able to talk and listen. He shouldn't be tired, hungry, or upset—or he won't be able to pay attention to what you are saying.

—Don't lecture. Avoid judgment statements like, "It's terrible for kids to get drunk" or "I would be so mad if you drank on prom night." This will make your teen defensive and put an end to the conversation.

—Do use open-ended questions like, "Do you know kids who drink?" Also ask about those who don't. Teens often have the wrong impression of how others behave; four out of five don't binge drink.

—Don't agree to host an after-party with alcohol in your home. It is against the law and most states will hold you liable for serving underage kids. Plus, it sets a bad precedent—your kid may think it's okay to drink another time because you permitted it on prom night.

—Do establish expectations, rules, and consequences regarding alcohol. Tell your kid you don't want him drinking and agree on what will happen if he does. Emphasize that you care about him and want him to have fun in a safe way.

—Don't assume you know where your teen is going to be. Ask him to text you a few times.

—Do make sure your teen understands you'll pick her up if need be. If she calls to say she has been drinking, get her and leave the consequences for the next morning.

—Don't think taking the car keys eliminates risk. Being in a limo or party bus doesn't remove all danger. Drinking on prom night has been linked to sexual assault, drowning, and falling from balconies.

April 21 marks the first day of MADD's new annual PowerTalk 21, an initiative for parents to start talking to their teens about the dangers of underage drinking. Get tips and download the free parent handbook "Power of Parents, It's Your Influence" at madd.org/powerofparents.