Make a Pact for a Safe Prom

May 01, 2017

Spring isn’t the only season kicking into high gear. Prom is right around the corner and that means fancy dresses, tuxedos, corsages, dinner, dancing and more. But what if prom night fuses drugs, drinking, driving under the influence and unprotected sex with so-called, fun?

Experts say parents tend to be too naïve during prom season, often struggling with the fact that prom just isn’t what it used to be – a harmless night of dancing and an innocent first kiss. Today, teens are faced with a whole new world of pressures: the prom and after-party could be equipped with piles of colored tablets and plastic-covered tubes.

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), the danger among teens of abusing prescription pain medications is a growing problem. After marijuana and alcohol, prescription drugs are reportedly the most commonly abused substances by Americans age 14 and older.

So, why are teens drawn to abusing prescription drugs on prom night? said many teens believe that prescription drugs are safer to use than illegal drugs, simply because they were prescribed by a doctor. However, prescription drug abuse is just as dangerous as alcohol consumption and illicit drug use. Many teens also believe that prescription medications aren’t addictive when, in reality, narcotic painkillers like OxyContin and Vicodin have an extremely high potential for addiction.

Additionally, since prescription drugs are relatively easy to get and conceal, they’ve become increasingly attractive. Many times on prom night, parents will be looking for signs of alcohol intoxication as opposed to the kind of high that comes from prescription drugs.

Equally as alarming as prescription drug abuse on prom night is the possibility of underage drinking, driving and unprotected sex. The Huffington Post recently published alarming statistics online that show how serious this behavior is:

●    Teen traffic deaths during prom season weekend are higher than at any other time of the year.

●    According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), for the past several years during prom weekend, approximately 300 teens have died in alcohol-related car accidents.

●    Also according to the NHTSA, one in three children under age 21 who died in alcohol-related accidents died during prom and graduation season.

●    An American Medical Association study reported that 10 percent of parents believed it was  appropriate  and safe for underage teens to attend both prom and graduation parties where alcohol is served, if a parent is present.

●    Most date rapes and sexual assaults against girls are alcohol and drug-related.

●    A U.S. Department of Health and Human Services national survey reported 39 percent of high school senior boys considered it acceptable to force sex on a girl who is intoxicated by alcohol or high on drugs.

In order for both parents and teens to feel safe on prom night, The Huffington Post suggests using a four-step system: The Talk, The Ride, The Connection and The Offer.

Step 1: The Talk
Begin your pre-prom talk with your children by emphasizing that you want them to have a wonderful, memorable prom. Keep that wish as a central focus throughout your discussion. They need to give you their complete itinerary for the evening, including who they will be with, where they will be going before and after the prom and the phone numbers where you can contact them.

Then, come to a fair decision on a curfew, based upon your children's past level of responsibility in this area. Express your concerns about their health and safety and explain to them why prom night makes it understandably more difficult to make safe and smart decisions. Ask them how they plan to keep safe and avoid actions they will regret. Role play some predictable dilemmas and decisions they may face and reinforce your belief in their character and in their ability to act responsibly.

Step 2: The Ride
Regardless of how many times you have talked about the dangers of driving under the influence of alcohol and drugs, emphasize that these dangers are particularly high on prom night. Your children cannot drink or take drugs and drive. If they're not driving themselves, you must know who'll be driving them. They must be driven by someone who has not and will not drink alcohol or take drugs. You need their promise on these rules. These rules are non-negotiable.

If your teen is being driven in a limo, speak directly with that limo company owner about their company's alcohol and drug policies. Do business only with a company/owner who forbids the presence and consumption of alcohol and other drugs in their vehicles.

Step 3: The Connection
If your children are not returning home right after the prom, you need to be able to contact them at all times until they return home. You also need to be reachable at all times as well. There can be no doubt where your kids will be and who they are with. Post-prom, parent-child check-in calls make sense. Establish a few mandatory call-in times with your kids. Make sure they leave with a fully charged cell phone, thereby establishing a guaranteed connection.

Step 4: The Offer
Give your children the unconditional option of calling you at any time for help or advice. That includes an offer to pick them up at any time of day or night, with a promise not to shame or humiliate them in front of others, nor to condemn or shame them once you get them in the car or back home. There will be ample time to discuss the night's events and the lessons learned. Assure them that you always welcome any opportunity to support and help them make smart decisions. Unconditional offers of help and advice should continue throughout their lives.

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