Say “no” to risky behaviours, but “yes” to fun.
The high school prom is an evening that graduating students look forward to as one of the last times they will spend with their friends before they go off to their post-secondary pursuits. It’s a memorable rite of passage for these teens – getting their hair done, finding the right dress or tuxedo, picking out a corsage, and posing for backyard photos.
But how can we as parents ensure that our teens have not only a fun time, but also a safe time, and reduce the chance of harm coming to them from risky behaviours such as drinking, drugs, or unsafe sex? Together, parents and schools can set teens on the right course.
Andrea lived through the prom experience with her two children, Julie and Adam. “I think it’s a matter of trust,” she says. “It’s important to know your child well and to keep the lines of communication open – knowing their date and their friends and talking to them ahead of time about what they might do if certain situations arise. It’s about communicating your expectations for their behaviour.”
Most schools prepare students by having a pre-prom assembly. At Cobourg District Collegiate Institute West, the pre-prom assembly is a time to review the school’s Code of Conduct and the Safe School Act as it relates to the prom, says principal Laina Andrews. Police are on hand to spell out the consequences of drinking and driving.
The school takes other steps too. “We send a letter to parents asking them to reinforce our message at home regarding drinking, illegal drug use, and appropriate behaviour at the prom,” says Andrews. “We build relationships with our students throughout the school year and have several discussions in our classrooms and in our assemblies about appropriate actions at all school events. We focus on the behaviour we want to see and the importance of the evening for graduates. We want it to be a positive and memorable event for everyone.”
St. Mary’s Catholic Secondary School in Cobourg takes a similar approach. In addition, “we also screen who buys the tickets,” says vice-principal Robert Majdell. “They must be students in good standing because attending the prom is a privilege, not a right.”
Getting around safely
Most graduating students are under the age of 19, the legal drinking age in Ontario. Parents need to discourage underage drinking, and never serve alcohol to their own or other people’s children, says Majdell. “Legally, you’re responsible for who is
drinking under your roof.”
It’s critical to have a plan for travelling safely that night. Some parents have an older sibling drive the younger teen and their friends to the prom. Other parents drive the teens themselves, so they know where they are at all times. Another option is for a group of friends to share the cost of a limousine.
Parents should tell kids to call home if they need any help throughout the evening. Some schools also provide an emergency cell phone number where students can call for help, no questions asked.
At the prom itself, supervision is taken very seriously by schools. There are staff chaperones, as well as uniformed police officers at the door. If a student appears intoxicated, a parent is called to come and take the child home.
After the prom
Andrea has some “after party” advice for parents. “If they’re going somewhere after the prom, find out where they’re going, who will be there, how they’re getting there, and how they’re getting home.”
Both of Andrea’s children attended after parties. “At the party Julie went to, we knew that the parents would be there and that she was going with a small group of friends. We picked her up there ourselves early the next morning,” she says. “Adam was also with a small group of friends and knew he had to get up for work in the morning, so he couldn’t stay out too late.”
When everyone works together, teens can have a safe prom night that they will remember happily for the rest of their lives.
Tips for Keeping Your Teens Safe on Prom Night
♦ ensure your teen has a safe ride to and from the prom as well as any after party
♦ know your teen’s date and their friends
♦ let your teen know they can call you at any time during the evening
♦ talk to your teen ahead of time about making safe choices
♦ reassure your teen that they are precious to you and that a wrong decision can have a lifetime impact
For more information, please visit:
Safe Schools, Code of Conduct –www.edu.gov.on.ca/eng/safeschools/code.html
Mothers Against Drunk Driving Canada – www.madd.ca
Ontario Students Against Impaired Driving – www.osaid.org