Making prom a night to remember
It’s prom season across Arkansas, and teens in every corner of our state are starting to plan out that special night. Their thoughts are filled with questions about the occasion: What will they wear? Who will they go with? Where will they dine beforehand?
But the bigger questions are ones that parents need to be asking to open a healthy discussion about safety on this memory-making evening: Who is driving? Where will they go afterward? What will their teen do if placed in a dangerous situation and needs a safe out? Talking with teens well in advance of the adrenaline-fueled night and working on a plan together can give parents peace of mind and their children a safer and more fun experience.
You can open the conversation by saying you’re excited for your teen to have a great, memorable prom, and that their safety is the most important detail to plan for. I found with my teens it was always important to give them a lot of credit too; they need to know you trust them to make good decisions and that you simply want to give them the resources to do just that.
Between us parents, there’s a frightening reality: Teens are nearly four times as likely to be involved in a car crash as other drivers, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). This is why our state created the graduated driver license (GDL) program in 2009 – it places limits on the risks teens face at the wheel. One of those limits is a curfew for hours that teens can drive. Remind your young driver that this curfew is still in effect on nights like prom and even more important since more teen drivers are on the road.
Also talk with them about limiting distractions. By the GDL regulations, a driver under 18 can only have one passenger unrelated to them who is less than 21 years old. Fewer passengers create fewer distractions. This helps your teen driver focus on the challenges of driving – on special occasions like prom and every other day of the year.
Suggest that your teen finalize plans for where and when to meet their friends well before they walk out the door. That may help limit their desire or “need” to text on the way there. Explain that texting while driving is every bit as dangerous as other risks that inhibit our judgment, like drugs and alcohol.
Every parent wants their teen to abstain from these dangerous substances, of course, but they need our guidance to do this. Talk to them about the risks of drinking or using drugs and driving. This is also a good time to delicately explain that alcohol is frequently connected to sexually transmitted diseases and unintended pregnancy, according to the CDC.
Reassure your teens that you want them to have a great time but that you also don’t want one night to have negative life-long consequences.