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Prom should be one of the best nights of your student’s high school career. Help ensure that they make healthy decisions by doing a little work on the front end. As a parent, you can help your sons and daughters have a safe, fun and regret-free night!
What’s Safer on Prom Night?
The terms “safe” and “teen drinking” never go together. When you host a party and allow underage drinking, you cannot predict the behavior of the teens present. Even if you take away the keys, alcohol poisoning, fights, risky sexual behavior, assaults, and other harmful situations may occur. There are countless stories of tragedies every year that take place when young people are allowed to drink in what the adults feel is a “safe” environment.
In addition, you are sending the message to young people that underage drinking and breaking the law are okay. If it is okay to drink at their friend’s house with adults present, then why wouldn’t it be okay to drink elsewhere? And if it is okay to break this law because it is unreasonable, then what other laws can be broken?
Providing alcohol to minors poses serious legal ramifications. Under the social host laws in Missouri, any adults can be held personally responsible and sued for anything that happens as a result of giving alcohol, or knowingly allowing minors to drink. It is illegal to purchase alcohol for a minor and adults who provide alcohol to minors could be charged up to 6 months in jail and/or a fine up to $500 PER MINOR drinking.
Tips for Parents
Stay involved throughout the planning of your teen’s prom. Use these tips to keep your teen safe:
- Ask your teen for a detailed itinerary for prom night including venues, times and contact numbers.
- Establish an agreed-upon curfew and stay up until your teen returns home
- Know exactly what after-prom activities are taking place and where—if at a friend’s house, call the parents to confirm and make sure that alcohol will not be present or consider hosting an after party in your home (see hosting tips page)
- Remind your teen not to use alcohol or drugs or ride in a vehicle with anyone under the influence. Make sure to tell your child that you expect them to stay alcohol free, even if everyone else is drinking
- Know who is driving or ask the appropriate questions of limousine or party bus services (see transportation tips page)
- Meet your teen’s prom date prior to the big night and know the names of each individual in your teen’s prom group
- Provide an ‘out’ for your teen, a contact number of someone they can call at any time to get home or get help, to have on hand before prom
- Discuss the pressures to have sex before prom night. Make sure your teen knows your family values.
- Never allow underage drinking on your property! Even if you “take the keys,” allowing youth to drink threatens their physical safety and mental development. Skip the booze and protect yourself and the youth from the risk of serious health, personal, and legal ramifications.
Tips for Discussing Prom Safety
1. Initiate the conversation
Start by noting the excitement of prom and how you want your kid to have fun. Transition with something such as “Prom is also a time when there is a lot of pressure to do things like have sex, drink, do drugs, go places that are unsafe, etc. I want you to have a great time, but I want you to be safe and smart.”
Have this conversation before the busy prom-day schedule, but consider giving a small reminder the day of the dance.
2. Make a safety plan
During your conversation, talk to your teen about what to do in various situations such as someone bringing alcohol to the dance, their ride is driving dangerously, perhaps while drinking or texting.
Make sure your teen knows (s)he can call you if they are in an unsafe situation. Consider setting up a code word or phrase with your teen that cues you to pick them up so (s)he doesn’t have to say “come get me, my ride is drinking.” Tell your teen you will be ready to answer that call and go get them, no questions asked. If your teen knows (s)he will be attacked with questions when you get there, they are less likely to call you if they are unsafe. Instead, pick up your teen and make a commitment to discuss the events later when both of you are calm.
Set a clear curfew and establish times when (s)he should call you to check in, perhaps when leaving the dance, arriving to the after prom, when heading home, etc.
3. Watch the tone
Throughout your talk it is important to give credit to your teen when possible. Make sure it is a conversation, not just you talking down to them. Perhaps begin by saying “I trust that you know these things already, but it’s important to me that we review them.”
Strive to find a balanced approach. Parents shouldn’t lecture or scare their teens with gloomy worst-case scenarios, but they also shouldn’t be too friendly with their teens by letting them call the shots on their prom night. Declare firm, clear guidelines in a caring way.
How to have a Safe After-Prom Party
- Write a guest list of a limited number of kids. Keep it to that list and say “no crashers” because if too many kids show up, you’ll have to close down.
- Agree ahead of time to the hours of the party.
- Stress that alcohol and drugs will not be tolerated. If kids bring in beer or any other substance they will be asked to leave. Be sure to take the stuff they brought so they can’t drink and drive.
- Those who come to the party are to stay at the party because people going in and out will be disruptive to the neighborhood, and some might be leaving to drink and come back and cause trouble.
- Walk by once or twice during the evening (for example to bring in more food, collect empty plates and cups). Keep some of the food and party treats upstairs if the party is in the basement. If the kids realize parents are around, their behavior will probably be calmer.
- Invite another parent to keep you company.
- If you have agreed to have a large party, tell the neighbors, and tell the police. The police may be able to make suggestions regarding parking, and if they’re keeping their eye out for you that night.
- There is no “responsible use” of alcohol by minors. Not only does allowing minors to consume alcohol send a message that some laws are meant to be broken, but adolescent drinking may bring about a host of dangers and lifelong ramifications.
Tips for Transportation
Drinking and driving is always unsafe and should be avoided at all costs. If you decide to hire a limousine company or other transportation service, here are some questions you can ask them to protect your kids:
- How long have you been in business?
- Are each of your drivers licensed and insured?
- Are each of your busses licensed and insured?
- Since this is a group of high school students, will you allow them to bring alcoholic beverages on the bus? Will you be checking bags, coolers, etc?
- If the driver suspects that there is underage drinking occurring on the bus, what is their protocol?
- What will your driver do if my teen asks to go somewhere that is not on my pre-approved list of locations?
- Do your chauffeurs/drivers have to pass drug tests?
Once the driver is hired, you should:
- Exchange phone numbers with the driver and encourage them to call you if there are any signs of underage drinking or other illegal behavior.
- Provide the addresses for the prom and afterprom and instruct the driver to only go to locations you approve.
- Ask the company to not use the privacy screen so that they can be fully aware of what is happening in the vehicle.
- Give the transportation company a curfew and set designated times that you want the vehicle to arrive at specific locations.