Spring means high school Proms—a time Dads feel excitement, dread, fun, uncertainty—all at the same time!
Prom is a sign of how quickly our “little” kids are growing up—and a reminder of the hazards they face out in the big bad world.
The author of Dads and Daughters: How to Inspire, Understand, and Support Your Daughter offers these tips to help Dads and kids get the most out of Prom time.
1. It’s her Prom, not yours. Dad functions best when he’s a good coach who listens closely to where his daughter is at, rather than imposing his emotions or fears on the situation.
2. Does “Dad” mean “Detective?” Yes. It’s more than okay to meet your kid’s date ahead of time. Make it a low-pressure meeting, like encouraging her to invite her date over to do homework some night. Promise her you won’t act like a prosecuting attorney (and then keep that promise), but let her know you care about her friends because you care so much about her.
3. Be in the know about the “Nos." No booze, no drugs, no hotel rooms, no riding without seatbelts. No exceptions--no matter how persistently she argues: “But, Dad! Everyone is doing it!”. Then make sure she knows that, no matter where, when, or what the situation, you will come get kid and date immediately if she finds herself in an uncomfortable or unsafe circumstance. And that there will be no lecture until at least the next day. Make a pact that you and she BOTH will let each other know where you are and who you’re with, all evening, no exceptions. Be sure she has access to a phone to reach you.
4. Keep your head when, all around you, others are losing their shoulder straps. Wearing “sexy” clothes (and dyeing hair) is normal adolescent behavior. It can be a teenager’s self-directed experiment in self-definition. Dad’s job is to let his daughter know that he loves her for who she is, now and forever. Meanwhile, you are not a dork if you set a dress code, but be willing to compromise or (even better) develop a dress code together.
5. Beauty is in the eye of Dad. Always remember how important your opinions are to your child or stepchild. A kid needs to know that Dad thinks she is wonderful inside and out. Tell her she glows by just being herself -- and no tux, dress, hairdo or flowers can match the true, inner beauty you see in your children.
6. Yes, Dad, Prom costs money. So set a budget early. Talk honestly with each other about the cost of tickets, a dress, flowers, parties, etc. Then work out a realistic plan for what you can afford together, letting her share some of the load.
7. Simple is the new black. Many kids and families (and, sadly, some schools) invest so much in Prom that it seems like a bigger deal than a wedding. While teens want to fit in, they also like to be different. So offer the “simple” approach to Prom as the way to be radically different. Skip the limo (dress up & be the chauffeur yourself), skip the Vera Wang (many fine togs hang in thrift and consignment shops), and skip the Royal (and pricey) post-prom extravaganzas (suggest the old-fashioned idea of bowling or making a scene eating at the local diner in tuxes and gowns).
8. Do the Dad Dance. Make sure she knows how to slow dance with class and style. Practice with her and Mom or Stepmom to some songs from your Prom days.
9. Lock in on lock-ins. If the school hosts a post-Prom overnight lock-in, make sure you know what will be happening there and get her commitment to observe all the rules (including the one about having fun). If you volunteer to chaperone, make the following deal with a fellow chaperone: “I promised my daughter that I wouldn’t hover around her and her date. So, if you keep a close eye on my kid, I’ll cover your flank by keeping a close eye on your kid.”
10. C’mon over! Avoid the post-Prom party minefield by having your kid and a handful of her friends (and even their dates!) over to your house for a relaxed, substance-free, and well-chaperoned get-together. Let them attend another non-school post-Prom party ONLY if you know the host family very well, they have a substance-free policy … and they know there’s going to be a party!
11. Breaking up doesn’t mean the party’s over. If she breaks up with her date before Prom, encourage her to go with one or more of her other friends, even if there isn’t any romantic interest. But most of all, respect how she’s feeling, hear her out, support her, and follow her lead.
12. Leave the light on. Wait up until she gets home, and then enjoy the fruit of your trust in each other—the great stories she’ll tell about the Prom.
Here’s a hint: if you or a fellow dad have a son, change the pronouns in these tips; they work just as well for boys!
Learn more about healthy fathering @ www.JoeKelly.org. © Joe Kelly, all rights reserved.