How to Survive Your Teen's Prom

Prom season arrives bigger and more complicated every spring.  Mighty Mommy has 6 practical tips to help you and your child through this exciting (and nerve wracking) rite of passage.

Cheryl Butler
5-minute read
Episode #278

Tip #4: Set Realistic Expectations

Sometimes prom isn't about having some big revelation about high school and life, it's just about dancing ridiculously with your friends and enjoying seeing everyone all decked out.   Of course you want this to be a memorable night for your teen, but spend some time discussing the fact that prom doesn’t unfold like a scene in a fairytale movie—realistically it’s probably more like a scene from a reality TV show. 

We learned this from my oldest daughter’s first prom.  After she spent hours getting ready (and weeks daydreaming about how perfect her prom would be) her date pulled up to the front of the house and texted her that he had arrived.  She felt humiliated and angry, especially when she looked out the front window and saw that he had a friend of his, not going to prom, sitting in the back seat of the car!  Her prom turned out to be a huge disappointment but we all learned that anything can happen, and while it’s OK to fantasize about what a great experience prom will be, it’s also wise to factor in a practical reality check.

Tip #5: Sex and the Prom

Whether your teen is faced with pressure from his or her date or it's pressure they’re putting on themselves, talk to your child about any looming romantic or sexual expectations at the after-prom party.   

See also: How to Talk to Your Kids About Sex


Is your child going to the prom with someone they have feelings for or someone they don't? Make it understood that no matter what, there's no reason to do anything they don't feel comfortable or ready. Let's face it, prom night is not the end-all-and-be-all of relationships.  Prom will be way less stressful if you help your teen see it in perspective.

Tip #6: Be There No Matter What

Parents can contribute to the pressure of prom by conjuring up idyllic scenes in their own minds about their child's experience. In fact, if you as a parent didn’t have a pleasant prom experience when you were in school, you might unknowingly be trying to fulfill your own past prom let down through theirs. 

Remind yourself that this is your kid’s special night, not yours. Also, remind yourself that things can go wrong during prom and any teen, including yours, could end up in a bad situationAs such, it’s important for them to know that even if they make a bad choice, you'll be there to pick them up and get them through it.  It’s also important to help them to understand that you may be angry or upset with their choices and there may be consequences, but that you will always help them out of a dangerous situation.  

Too often teens think their parents won't be helpful or they're afraid of disappointing you, so they stay in a bad situation rather than call home. Your child needs to know that it's OK to call home no matter what.  Communicate this throughout prom season right up until they step out the door dressed to the nines—consistent communication about such important matters is like continually watering a newly planted garden. Eventually it will take root and grow and your teen will know that he or she can count on you even during a seriously tough time.

See also: 7 Ways to Help Build Your Teen’s Self-Esteem and Become a Better Listener with Your Children


How have you navigated the world of prom with your teensy?  Share your thoughts in the comment section at quickanddirtytips.com/mighty-mommy or post your ideas on the Mighty Mommy Facebook page. You can also connect with me on Twitter @MightyMommy or e-mail me at mommy@quickanddirtytips.com.  Visit my family-friendly boards at Pinterest.com/MightyMommyQDT.

Prom night sign and teens at prom images courtesy of Shutterstock.


All content here is for informational purposes only. This content does not replace the professional judgment of your own mental health provider. Please consult a licensed mental health professional for all individual questions and issues.

About the Author

Cheryl Butler Project Parenthood

Cheryl L. Butler was the host of the Mighty Mommy podcast for nine years from 2012 to 2021. She is the mother of eight children. Her experiences with infertility, adoption, seven pregnancies, and raising children with developmental delays have helped her become a resource on the joys and challenges of parenting. You can reach her by email.