The mythologized romance of prom has tempted teens to lose their virginity as a way of making the night that much more special. Set the record straight with your kid: While it may seem like everyone is doing it, only 46 percent of high school students say they have had sex. Many kids choose to attend prom in groups, which may lead to less one-on-one time and the pressure that goes with it. Still, the risk exists that your teen may be sexually active that night. Here's how to deglamorize the situation, according to Paula Hillard, MD, chief of the division of gynecologic specialties at Stanford School of Medicine in California.
—Don't limit your discussion to one big talk about prom-night sex. Have countless ongoing discussions about your values and beliefs.
—Speak honestly, show respect, and listen to your kid's views.
—It's not always realistic just to tell your teen not to have sex. Instead, encourage her to think carefully about the repercussions of her actions and decisions. Talk with your teen about being physically and mentally prepared for sex and any potential consequences, like STDs and pregnancy. Discuss methods of protection and how she can get them.
—Ask questions like, "What do you think would happen if you were to get pregnant?" or "How would you feel if the person you had sex with didn't call you the next day?"
—Know who your kid spends time with to get a better sense of whether his friends are risk-takers.
—If you allow your teen to attend a post-prom party, call the host's parents to find out who will be supervising. Ask the parents if they will be there the entire night and how they plan to prevent teens' access to alcohol or drugs.
Originally published in the April 17, 2011, issue of Family Circle magazine.