High school Proms can be filled with excitement, dread, fun, uncertainty—and all at the same time! For many fathers, Prom is one more reminder of how quickly their little girl is growing up—and a reminder of the hazards facing her out in the big bad world.
We feel pressure and anxiety about Prom’s expense, co-ed parties afterwards at a friend's house, the level of how much ‘looking good’ is the focus on these events, how it takes on the flavor of a mini-wedding, etc. It seems that a fun dance often becomes a struggle about the huge expectations of what Prom means to the new teen culture. And we’re also concerned with the "lenient parents" vs. "rigid parents" among parents of the couples.
Here's some help for Dads and Daughters to 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 she’s at, rather than imposing his emotions or fears on the situation.
2. Does “Dad” mean “Detective?” Yes. It’s more than okay to meet her 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. 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 daughter’s self-directed experiment in self-definition. Dad’s job is to let her 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.
4. Beauty is in the eye of her Dad. Always remember how important your opinions are to your daughter. A girl needs to know that her Dad thinks she is beautiful inside and out. Tell her she glows by just being herself -- and that the dress, hairdo and flowers are extra to her true, inner beauty.
5. Both be in the know about the “Nos." No booze, no drugs, no hotel rooms, no riding without seatbelts. No exceptions. Then make sure she knows that, no matter where, when, or what the situation, you will come get her 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 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.
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 her way to be radically different. Skip the limo (drive her yourself), skip the Vera Wang (many a fine dress hangs in thrift and consignment shops), and skip the Royal Banquet (suggest the old-fashioned idea of post-Prom bowling or eating at the local diner in tuxes and gowns).
8. Save the first dance for Dad. Make sure she knows how to slow dance with class and style. Practice with her to some songs from your Prom days.
9. 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 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.
10. We’ll leave the light on for you. 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 (but don’t take it personally if she wants to tell Mom more than you—because she may well tell you later, if you stay open to her).