It is that time of year. Your teenagers are going to prom, that high school right-of-passage for many. Perhaps you remember your prom night and are completely relaxed, or your prom night was off the rails and you are now in a state of panic, or somewhere in between. All parents want their children to have fun, stay safe and be sober. Hopefully, you have been having conversations with your teen about sex, drinking, and drugs throughout their high school years. It is much better to have an on-going conversation instead of a “Rule Dump” right before prom. Make sure you and your teen are aware of potential pitfalls so that they can avoid any legal troubles. 1. Make A Prom Plan
When your teen is off to prom, be sure to know where they are going, who will be with them and their timetable. Ask for the names and mobile numbers of the other teens (and their parents) who plan to spend the evening with your teen. Know where your teen is and have the information to contact their friends and parents of friends if your teen is late, lost their phone, or the battery died. You are thinking, “Battery died. Yeah, right. I also believe the dog ate their homework.” Avoid frustration ahead of time by having multiple numbers for contact.
2. Prom Houses
In the Lowcountry, it is common for teens (through a parent) to borrow or rent beach houses for prom night weekends. While this can be fun, you need to make sure the adult in charge is using common sense. Most beach houses are in areas that have noise ordinances. So, keep that in mind when you have a large group of teens at the prom house. To avoid some problems, you may want to introduce yourself to the neighbors and give them your mobile number. Ask them to call you before the police if there is a problem so you can address it. Make sure the teens keep the noise down and act respectfully. For example, make sure the teens are not blocking or parking in a neighbor’s driveway. Most of all, do not allow the teens to drink alcohol or use drugs. If the police are called on a noise complaint, it can quickly turn into a serious situation for all involved, teens and the adult in charge. As the adult chaperone at a prom house, it is very important that you understand the rules and enforce them. The last thing you want is to be caught up in a police investigation involving underage drinking and sexual misconduct.
3. Drinking at Prom
The legal drinking age is 21. However, there are a few exceptions that may not widely know. According to the South Carolina Code of Laws, if parents provide alcohol to their minors at home, it is legal for the minors to drink alcohol. This does not extend to public places. So, parents cannot give their minor children alcohol at a restaurant. Parents cannot give alcohol to other people’s children! Minors can also drink alcohol for religious purposes. College students can taste alcohol as part of their college curriculum. Be smart! Don’t engage in underage drinking. Also, minors don’t have to be drinking to face criminal charges. If you are holding the alcohol, you are in “possession” of it and if you are not holding it but near it, you may be “constructive possession” of alcohol. For example, if you are in a car, and other people are drinking, and you are not, you can still be charged with “constructive possession.” Don’t drink if you are underage and don’t be around other minors drinking.
4. Romeo and Juliet on Prom Night
No, it’s not Shakespeare, although I wish it were. If you have teenagers, you may or may not have discussed sex with them. Every family deals with the issue in their own way. What is vitally important is that sex must always be consensual, even if you are married. If there is no consent, it is rape. Even if you can consent, it does not mean you did. Never assume consent. Also, you must be old enough to legally give consent. In South Carolina, the age of consent is 16. But, there are some instances when a 14 and 15-year-old may consent. This is the “Romeo and Juliet” law. If one partner is 18 years old or younger and the other partner is between 14 and 15 years old, the younger partner can consent, and it is not statutory rape. Make sure your teen knows the law and the rules about consent. Every family is different and whether you condone sex before marriage or before reaching adulthood, or not, be sure to discuss your values and expectations with your teen.
5. Prom Mad Money and No Questions Asked
Probably the most important part of prom night is to make sure your teen is safe. Teens need to know that if they are in any situation at any time of night (or day) where they are uncomfortable, they can call you to pick them up. No questions asked. It does not matter if it is 9 pm or 2 am, same rules apply. You may also want to consider setting up an Uber account so they can get a ride home no questions asked. In days past, parents gave their kids “Mad Money” so that if they wanted or needed to leave a social situation, they could get home or remove themselves from the situation.
Most of all, remember to relax and enjoy the milestone.