Prom night is almost upon us and we all have different feelings and concerns. Our teens worry about their clothes, will anyone else have the same dress, does my tuxedo tie match my dates attire, how many times will we dance, do I remember the dance steps from that one dance lesson I took and what about that awkward end of the night kiss? As parents we worry about our teens driving to the prom and perhaps any after party. We think will our child exercise good judgment or will s/he fall prey to peer pressure and/or impulsive immature behavior?
Our teens' brains have not fully developed and they lack the experience adults have especially on a night as exciting and new as prom night. We all know that car accidents are the number one killer of teens and all of the elements that can make up this potentially lethal mix will be present on prom night: late night driving; multiple occupants in one vehicle; speeding or reckless driving which is meant to foolishly impress others; distracted driving; driving on unfamiliar roads; and need mention be made of the possibility of drinking and driving?
How can we as parents help to ensure that our teens have a good time while keeping safe? One reported study found that teens with "hands on" parents who establish clear behavioral expectations, monitor their teens coming and goings, and are not afraid to say no are four times less likely to engage in risky behavior.
As parents it is vitally important that as part of the ritual of meeting with those that are going in your teen’s group and taking pictures of everyone in their upscale attire you also have “the talk.” The "talk" is best had individually with your teen and, if the other teens are congregating at your house, with them as well. This talk should focus on your expectation and their promise to abide by certain rules. The following are suggested tips for parents to review with their teens prior to them heading off to the prom:
* If your teen or another teen is driving, make sure they do not engage in any type of distracting driving activities. Get them to promise that they will not text or talk on the phone while they are driving and do not talk with
passengers in the back seat which causes them to turn and take their attention off the road;
* Limit the number of passengers that can be in the car at any one time
as the risk to become involved in an accident increases with every additional passenger in the vehicle;
* Set a reasonable curfew for the evening or, if they will be staying somewhere else, insist that they call you at a prearranged time and tell them that you will be waiting up for their call and will not go to sleep until you hear from them;
* Have a very specific conversation about following all of the rules of the road and discuss the consequences for any violations that are brought to your attention;
*Discuss the fact that there will be zero tolerance for drinking and driving and have a very specific conversation about the drastic consequences that will take place should that occur;
*Tell your teen that if there are any problems or situations that occur due to their or their peers employing bad judgment, they can call you and you will arrange to pick them up without any repercussions or consequences other than having a conversation about how this situation will be avoided in the future so they know that their safety comes above everything else; and
• To the extent you are able, arrange for someone else to drive your teen so you can eliminate the need for them to drive. Consider an adult to chauffeur the students to and from the prom venue.
As parents, we all wish that our teens will have a wonderful evening that will create lifelong memories of a pleasant nature. We also want to think that way in which we have raised our children will provide them with a foundation for making right decisions. We certainly do not want to miss the chance to stress all of these important considerations. Parents need to exercise the authoritative role of a protector and advocate and worry less about being our child’s friend, especially on this problematic night. To all of our teens; have a great time and be safe! It will make all us parents very happy!
For an example of a Parent/Teen Agreement visit www.hcwlaw.com/download-teen-driver-parent-guardian-contract/.
Richard P. Hastings is a Connecticut personal injury lawyer at Hastings, Cohan & Walsh, LLP, with offices throughout the state. A graduate of Fordham Law School, he has been named a New England Super Lawyer and is the author of the books: "The Crash Course on Child Injury Claims"; "The Crash Course on Personal Injury Claims in Connecticut" and "The Crash Course on Motorcycle Accidents." He has also co-authored the best selling book "Wolf in Sheep's Clothing- What Your Insurance Company Doesn't Want You to Know and Won't Tell You Until It's Too Late!" He can be reached at 1(888)CTLAW-00 or by visiting www.hcwlaw.com. He is also a member of CT DMV Commissioner Currey's Committee on Teen Safe Driving.