5 Tips for a Successful Prom

5 Tips for a Successful Prom

by Elyse Dombrowski



It’s in the details.

Prom is a time for celebration and excitement.  For your teen, that means finding a dress or a tux, a date, and getting ready for the big dance, however, those things do not just come together on all on their own. Talk to your teen about the plans they have, and how they anticipate putting them all together, there may be small details that they are not aware of, or have never had to address before this time.  Simply engage your teen in a conversation regarding their plans and what they need to do in order to bring all the moving pieces together.  Have they ordered the corsage or boutonniere? Arranged transportation to and from the dance? Or made their dinner reservations in advance to guarantee that their group will be able to eat at the restaurant of their choice, as well as have enough time to do so before the dance?  All of these questions are a good place to start and helps your teen develop a sense of responsibility while improving their organizational skills at the same time!



Budget, budget, budget.

Talk to your child before the big day arrives, and let them know how much you are willing to spend on their outfit. This includes the dress or tuxedo, the flowers, dinner, and all of the little accessories that go with completing the outfit (jewelry, shoes, etc.).  If your teen wants a more expensive outfit, then let them know that will be an expense they must cover on their own.  Similarly, for other homecoming costs, such as transportation, the dinner, and after-party plans, let your teen know the budget for those expenses as well.  Expenses can add up quickly, so inform your teen of your budget well in advance so they know what to expect and can plan accordingly.



Communicate rules and expectations.

Just as you discussed the budget in advance, make sure you also address what you expect from your teen when they are out.  Do you know who your teen will be attending the dance with?  Do you know what their plans are for after the dance? Are they able to attend an after-party, and if so, do you know where they will be going and whether or not another adult will be present?  Be sure to ask your teen to provide you with the details and information before prom arrives, and to check in with you should their plans change throughout the course of the night.  Curfew is another important piece to discuss in advance and whether or not it will be extended for the evening.  Ensure your teen that you feel confident in their ability to stick to the plans you have discussed, and trust them to make decisions accordingly.



Safety first.

Safety is always a big concern for parents when it comes to prom, especially when there are after-party plans. Many schools offer after-party plans that the students can take part in, which provide fun, food, and adult supervision.  Still, there are teens that choose to make their own plans after the dance, typically at a friend’s house.  Talk to your teen about drinking or using substances and keep a realistic mindset when discussing the presence of said substances.  While you should stress that you prefer your teen do not use any illegal substances, set some realistic guidelines and non-negotiable rules with them.  This may include no drinking and driving, no binge drinking, and no leaving the after-party.  Younger teens may need different rules, such as setting a curfew and ensuring that adult supervision will be present. Encourage your teen to call you, without getting in trouble, if they need help or do not want to be at the party anymore.  Keeping the lines of communication open is the key here.



Have fun.

As a parent, you can remember the thrill and joy of prom.  Going to the dance is such a great time, and will be a time your teen remembers forever.  So get excited for them!  Although knowing what to expect and how to plan is half the battle, and important, don’t forget to make this time as enjoyable as possible for them.  Help them find the right dress, document the day of the dance with pictures of them getting ready and laughing with friends, and wish them the best time before they head out.  While they are out, plan a fun evening for yourself!  Plan a date night, watch a movie, or spend time with friends.  Just because prom is for your teen does not mean you cannot have fun too!       


Does My Child Need a Therapist?

Parents typically are much more worried about having to take their child to a professional than the kids are. Kids and teens usually shutterstock_162527039(1)view their therapist (well, a good one) as an adult sounding board: someone besides their parents who can offer “what if” scenarios to help develop strategies and problem-solving skills in common situations.

Kids come to therapy for a wide range of concerns, and the reasons that parents consider seeking help will vary greatly depending on the age and developmental stage of the child. In school-aged and pre-school children, there may be situations where skill-building in social, academic and emotional arenas appear to be falling behind that of their peers, or lacking in basic areas. A parent may notice these challenges, or may be informed of such concerns by a school social worker, teacher or a pediatrician who suggests further investigation into an issue which may be more emotional in nature than physical.

In teenagers, some of those skills may have been developed effectively early on, but there is a regression or retreat from previous areas of competence. Also, negative behaviors or attitudes that cause significant stress in family, friendship and school/work relationships will frequently motivate parents to seek outside help.

Common Range of Parent Concerns (depending on age of child)
• Excessive worries or fears
• Perfectionistic tendencies
• Irritability or over-reactivity
• Difficulty with transitions
• Difficulty socializing with same-aged peers
• Sleep issues
• School refusal or avoidance
• Decline in academic performance as an indicator of social/emotional struggles

• Inability to identify, express or cope with feelings
• Unresolved loss issues
• Frequent or heavy conflict with family/friends
• Poor eating habits (too much/too little)
• Lack of interest in formerly desired activities
• Lingering negative mood or attitude
• Aggressive or risky behaviors towards self or others
• Non-compliance with authority figures (e.g., teachers, parents)

Who should I call? A social worker? A counselor? A psychologist? A psychiatrist?

Licensed clinical social workers (LCSW) have a master’s degree in social work and at least 3000 clock hours of supervised training in a clinical setting before taking the licensing exam. They also receive supervision training and consultation during their clinical experience.

Licensed professional counselors have a master’s degree in clinical psychology, also with 3000 clock hours of supervised training in a clinical setting before taking the clinical licensing exam.

Licensed marital and family therapists also have a master’s degree in marriage and family therapy and are well-trained to work with children, teens, parents, couples, and families. MFTs have graduate training (a Master’s or Doctoral degree) in marriage and family therapy and at least two years of clinical experience. Like their counterparts, marriage and family therapists regularly practice short-term therapy and prefer to offer brief, solution-focused treatment that is specific, with therapeutic goals with the end of treatment in mind. About half of the treatment provided by marriage and family therapists is one-on-one with the other half divided between marital/couple and family therapy, or a combination of treatments.

These professionals do not need a doctorate degree to practice in their field, but can be in-network providers for health insurance, which helps families afford therapy services. Social workers and counselors often charge less per session for the work they do than their psychologist counterparts, who often also conduct psychological evaluations and testing and sometimes do therapy as well. Psychiatrists may offer therapy, but often are sought when medication is a consideration.

What to Expect In a Therapy Session
Before bringing a younger child in for therapy, a parent will typically meet for an initial session alone with the clinician to discuss concerns, review any previous treatment or diagnostic assessments, and answer any questions for the parent. In a first session with the child (which may or may not include the parent), the therapist assesses in a non-judgmental, supportive way specific information related to the child’s personality, style of relating, and areas of concern. This assessment forms the basis for creating a treatment plan, and identifying specific goals within that plan that are related to the development of the child’s self-directed problem-solving skills.
Parents of older teens often start the therapy process with a phone consultation with the therapist, bypassing the need for an in-person meeting, and the therapist meets with the teen individually from the beginning. In this case, parents are included in the process whenever necessary and useful.

Ongoing communication between parent and clinician is an important part of the therapy process as treatment goals are met or modified. One of the most important goals of therapy is to enable the child/teen (and family) to become skillful and confident in their problem-solving abilities, so that the therapist is no longer-needed. Follow-up or “booster” sessions are available after therapy ends, so that any new or unresolved concerns can be addressed if the need arises.


Lollapalooza: What Parents Need to Discuss with Teenagers

shutterstock_195516488This weekend, Chicago hosts one of the biggest festivals in America, Lollapalooza. Lollapalooza is compared to Woodstock, perhaps because of the free-for-all, hippy-freedom atmosphere, not to mention the incomparable music. It draws over 100,000 people each day for the three day festival and is well-attended by teens. They love the music and hanging with friends. Yet, the lack of supervision can pose great risks too.

Lurie Children’s Hospital reports that during last year’s festival, 102 adolescents between the ages of 13 and 20 were admitted to the hospital for drinking related incidences. This was over twice the number of admits at the second highest weekend festival, Spring Awakening. Reports indicate that a majority of the people who are admitted to the hospital are white females from the North Shore. So, it DOES happen with OUR kids here in the ‘burbs.

How to Talk to Your Teen about Drinking/Drugs/Risky Behavior at Any Music Festival:

  • Discuss with your teenager that staying with friends is important. Safety in numbers. Always.
  • Never accept anything or give anything to anyone you do not know. I know it sounds like common sense, but teens are not the least impulsive people and sometimes do not think clearly about what is happening around them.
  • Be mindful of their own surroundings. If it seems “off”, it probably is.
  • Have them discuss a plan with friends about not drinking and watching out for each other. Make sure they STICK to it!
  • Keep their money in a location in FRONT of them, so they have access to it easily, but pick-pocketers don’t.
  • Have access to money if something happens and they need to take a cab or buy food/water quickly.
  • Eat well before they leave home. A full stomach slows the absorption of alcohol if they choose to drink (and don’t tell you)
  • Make sure that even when they are drinking water or non-alcoholic drink that they never put their drink down or hand it to someone else. Most “date drugs” are colorless, odorless, and tasteless.
  • Establish rules and consequences. Rules might include no underage drinking, leaving parties where alcohol is served and not riding in a car with a driver who’s been drinking. Agree on the consequences of breaking the rules ahead of time — and enforce them consistently.
  • Come up with a shared code word that will help both of you understand your teenager needs you as soon as possible.

The links below share more information about the festivals and alcohol consumption risks and statistics.



What other advice would you tell parents to tell their kids prior to music festivals like Lollapalooza?

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