For many teens, even those raised by strict parents, it's a given that prom night is the one night when the rules regarding curfew are more lax. If you even think of telling your son or daughter to be home by 1 or 2 or whatever time you deem is appropriate for a 17-year-old, you can just hear their protests: but no one else has a curfew ... you're the only mom ... you don't trust me ... And on and on and on.
Speaking as someone who wasn't allowed to stay out all night simply because it was prom, I feel these kids' pain. But as a mom, I also hear incredibly scary stories like this one about a girl named Jacqueline Gomez who was found dead the morning after prom and had mixed alcohol and prescription drugs. And it instantly becomes a lot more difficult to be a cool mom who lets curfew slide.
To be fair, prom doesn't deserve all of the blame here. In fact, because we expect kids to be a little more out of control and in harm's way that evening, many schools and local clubs help parents out by sponsoring alcohol-free parties where teens can dance and socialize in a safe environment after prom.
But there are other teen milestones -- take graduation, for example -- in which the norm seems to be for kids to be given a lot more sudden freedom before they are perhaps mature enough to handle it.
I don't advocate treating your child like glass. The second I experienced even a sliver of freedom as a teen, I did a few stupid things that I don't believe I would have done had I not felt the need to take advantage of my "only opportunity" to go nuts. Friends of mine who were used to staying out late and didn't see it as exotic were much more level-headed about drinking, drugs, or trying to sneak into some place they weren't allowed to be.
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If you really can't understand why prom or graduation automatically spells late nights for a teen, stand by your decision and know that one day your child will get that you are only trying to protect him or her.
But if you're debating whether to drop all rules for one night, you may want to rethink that plan. A better strategy might be to ease them into their newfound independence. Gradually extend their curfew by a few hours a few months or weeks prior to all of the big events they're looking forward to attending. See if they can handle it. Monitor their ability to begin monitoring their own behavior. If anything, it's a great way to prepare them -- and yourself -- for the ultimate scary day they'll be able to decide for themselves whether to pull an all-nighter: their first day at college.
Would you let your teen stay out all night after prom or graduation? Do you feel it's better to give them a curfew?
Image via Varin/Flickr