While prom can be the most exciting part of your teenager's year, for some parents it's a daunting task to stay relevant and helpful as the big dance approaches.
Here are nine tips to not only help your teen enjoy this milestone, but also to use it as a bonding experience along the way.
1. Go off the beaten path to find unique and budget-friendly outfits
Prom isn't necessarily the floor-length dress scenario you picture from your own golden years. Teens now may gravitate toward cocktail dresses and funky bowties. Or something more original. If that's the case, you and your teen could make a day of digging through local antique or secondhand stores to unearth a one-of-kind dress or retro suit. Take a little time to get to know what your teen hopes to be wearing for a more productive outing. For a more conventional route, check out Reading's nationally acclaimed bridal district. Try, for instance, Bridal and Formal, 300 W.Benson St., or, for a cheaper venture, head across the street to Valley Thrift (9840 Reading Road). Try to let your teen take the lead on selections to prevent dressing room battles.
2. Make getting ready a family affair
Instead of leaving your teen alone all day to get ready with friends, participate in the prep work. Take your teen to get their car washed, or include younger siblings in a pedicure appointment (check out L&T Nails in Kenwood's Prom Special, for example). Both your teen and the younger siblings will secretly enjoy being part of the action or the star of the day. Some hair salons will throw in a free simple hairstyle session for younger siblings, too.
3. Hammer out some details
Yes, your 17-year-old boy "has it all under control," but when he and his party of 10 friends show up at Montgomery Inn having forgotten to call ahead, prom night may not be everything they'd hoped for. A subtle check-in about buying a corsage or boutonniere, or suggesting some great dinner locations (like Kona, PrimaVista, or many similar dinner locations from What to Do in Cincy) could keep things running smoothly. You might even throw a pair of flats into your daughter's car, even if she insists she can wear 4-inch-heels for five hours.
Another easy way to get involved is to help your teen create a memorable "ask your date to prom" memory. Students are getting more creative than ever with popping the question (well not that question … yet). See some "promposals" here.
4. Stage a photo party with more than just your family
Instead of having the teens stop for pictures with both sets of parents, open up your home for photos and invite all of the friends and parents to hang out for some group shots. You might have drinks and appetizers prepared for the other guests. Who knows what friendships you can strike up while ooh-ing and ahh-ing over your teens "all grown up"? Your teen will appreciate not jumping from house to house before the party even starts. Study up on posing tips for prom photos with your teen (hint: one from this article even tells teens to include their parents because it is an important day for them, too). Not comfortable having everyone over? Then you might help organize a meeting place at a scenic location, such as Ault Park or Eden Park, or another photo spot near you. (Check out this photo map at shothotspot.com.)
5. Be available, and have the difficult conversations
Whether you're hosting a hangout or shuttling kids to and from their after-prom, your teen's knowing you're around and available will reduce the risk of a prom-night tragedy.
According to AAA, 31 percent of teens say they or their peers are likely to drink or use drugs during prom and graduation season, and 87 percent think their peers are more likely to drive under the influence rather than ask a parent for a ride to avoid getting in trouble. Students who feel they can ask their parents for a ride have lower risks. While you may think your teen knows you are always available, it can't hurt to verbalize it one more time just in case.
6. Host a DIY after prom
Making your own fun evening plans, close to home, can ease some of the worry for parents and also leave teens with an easy and cheap after-prom option. Some unconventional tips for corralling your teen and their friends during the after-prom time period could include hosting a low-key thematic food party, in which you and your teen plan, prepare and organize some fun food options (Mexican appetizers, teen tapas, cheese coney night, a taco bar). If your teen is actually the kind who likes to sleep, plan a day-after prom brunch instead. If your teen does opt to attend the school's after-prom, ensure that you are on the same page about when to leave, since some schools require students to stay the entire time unless a parent picks them up.
7. Offer a sentimental token
While teens may not see prom as a rite of passage, they may think it's mildly cool that you do. Offer your teen a necklace or watch that you wore as a young adult yourself as a sort of pass-down item or ritual. Insert some sappy talk about how grownup they are and how proud you are, or skip it. While they may scoff at first, having a sentimental something from you can serve the same purpose as the "something borrowed/something old" does for a bride on her wedding day. Or, for an object-free approach, make sure your semi-awkward sophomore does in fact know how to slow-dance, pin on a corsage, hold open a door, or walk up to their date's house instead of honking from the driveway.
8. Help someone have a prom who otherwise couldn't
Encourage your teen to find and donate old formal apparel to a dress bank, such as Cinderella's Closet of Greater Cincinnati, to make sure another less fortunate teen has a fun prom season as well. (Click here for Ohio and NKY locations.) Raiding the closet or a local thrift store with your teen can raise their awareness that prom is a privilege that not everyone shares, especially when prom night spending averages about $919 nationally, according to a 2015 Visa spending survey.
9. Do you have an anti-prom kid? Don't push them.
That landmark-milestone discussion above? Throw it out the window if your teen really doesn't want to go. Maybe it's not their year. Maybe they hate dressing up. Maybe they have a better use for $919. Or maybe they are avoiding a socially stressful situation. Regardless, try to accept their decision to go or not, and recognize that at most schools, there will be multiple opportunities to go to prom through the years. According to YouGov.com, 53 percent of Americans didn't attend prom anyway, and 59 percent called prom "overrated."
Avoiding prom and doing something else fun with your teen could actually make more of an impact in the long run for a kid who doesn't want to go. For a couple of fun alternatives, check out the new TopGolf or Main Event locations in West Chester.