By Drs. Steve Schlozman and Eugene Beresin
The recent fatal stabbing of a 16-year-old girl in Connecticut have understandably cast a dark shadow over prom night.
Attacks like the one in Connecticut are rare, but these events receive massive attention and can thus obscure the more common tribulations characteristic of the spring dance.
In no way do we want to make light of the seriousness of recent events, but we also do not want to miss the opportunity to explore the more common hand-wringing of this yearly ritual.
So, consider the following scenario:
It’s late afternoon on the day of the prom. Your son ambles downstairs in his tuxedo, silently seeking approval. Your younger daughter giggles: “What’s that thing he’s wearing?” she asks.
“That’s a tuxedo,” you say.
“I know what that is, Daddy, but what’s that big black belt?”
“It’s a cummerbund,” you reply.
But you are wrong, according to your daughter’s analysis. “It’s morantic,” she says. “I think he looks morantic.”
That’s how she says romantic. It usually cracks up your son when she says this, but not today.
“No,” you respond. “You look very distinguished.”
He’s still not pleased. He’s 18, after all, and not ready to be distinguished.
And as his date arrives, you have this sinking recollection: they are preparing themselves for a night that can’t possibly live up to expectations.
Then you start to worry about the sharp turn that can separate the glamour of the dance itself from the potential debauchery of the post-prom festivities. No dress-up clothes then, no contrived formalities…just hanging out with friends and staying up all night, with possible cut-loose celebrations (read: sex) or unfettered over-indulgence (read: drugs).
For all those parents out there who are planning to launch their own kids into this great Western tradition, we would like to opine from our vantage points as child and adolescent psychiatrists, and as former prom attendees, and, for at least one of us, as someone who has seen four kids attend proms. Here are a few tips:
1. Don’t use the “S” word
When your daughter emerges in her prom dress, don’t fuss. Tell her that she looks great, or that she looks beautiful, but don’t say sexy. Continue reading