The DrDownload blog is about the health and well being of children. It’s spring as I write, and I could feature spring allergies or new sunscreen guidelines. But what I’ve really been fretting about lately is my own worries over the kids and… PROM.
I’ve been pondering the wonderful experience that the prom can be for our teenagers as they begin to see themselves as emerging adults, but I’m struggling with the Prom Sleepover.
I’m not a prom ‘newbie.’ As a matter of fact, as prom-parents go, I’m probably on the Varsity Squad. I’ve explained how you order flowers (“yes, they should coordinate with her dress.”) I’ve helped decide if a hand-me-down tux actually fits (“why don’t we order a smaller shirt, take a tuck in the trousers, and it’ll be just perfect.”) I’ve even helped wash the family station wagon.
What I have not been able to do over all these years is to condone the Girl-Guy post prom spend-the-night parties. And while I have incurred the wrath of all my children, I think I am making the right call.
I have great kids. And they have great friends. It’s not about the kids. It is about how kids see and discern risk as they pursue unlimited fun on prom night and how tragedy collides with our kids. It’s about a plethora of statistics that I know and dread because I am a pediatrician. And it’s my job to ensure that parents know these numbers and sobering facts, too.
In 2014, a triple AAA survey reported that 84% of teens surveyed admitted that their friends would be more likely to drive after drinking than they would be to call home for a ride. There goes my theory that my kids would never drive after drinking or ride with a friend who did. 41% percent of the kids said that they or their friends would likely use drugs or alcohol on prom night. Surprised? We probably shouldn’t be.
The fact is: teens are involved in fatal traffic accidents related to prom season drinking, and yet 80% of them, the majority of high school kids, don’t believe that being on the roads on prom night is dangerous.
“It won’t happen to me,” they believe.
“Or to my child,” I pray.
Back to the issue of the co-ed spend-the-night. How risky is that behavior? It’s harder to answer that question with statistics, but there are some. Seventeen Magazine and researchers at the CDC analyzed 13,000 teen responses and found that 5% of girls and 3% of guys admitted to losing their virginity after prom in 2014. No comment on what percentage of teens had already passed that milestone to account for numbers that seem low to me. There is a social and moral context that we might consider.
When did it become acceptable for boys and girls to sleep together under the same roof in high school? I missed that memo, but I’m guessing the kids sent it out. One mother hosting a co-ed sleepover admitted to me that she (and I quote) “asked around and that’s just what the kids do now.” In choosing to overlook longstanding societal reasons for segregating hormonal sleeping teens, we may be forgetting the long-term vision for our children when it comes to being a couple. You know, that vision of your child’s future self where one possible outcome is growing up, getting married and staying married to a soul mate? I like that future vision for my kids. In college dormitories and fraternity houses all across our nation, we are seeing the same co-ed sleepovers take shape as ‘friends with benefits.’ The idea of traditional courtship and dating has been replaced with a kind of free-for-all. It’s a trend that makes date rape a not-too-surprising reality and a terrible tragedy.
It’s a long jump from my son wanting to spend a few more hours with his date and all their friends after Prom to a discredited article in Rolling Stone magazine and sex on the college campus. But if I can make you see that there is some value to societal rules that lend form and structure to dating (and not sleeping together as teenagers,) then I can stop typing.
As an amazing prom night comes to its natural end in the wee hours of the morning, with friends exhaustedly asleep on somebody else’s living room floor, I can go back to thinking about how all these physically attractive and attracted teens will be practicing delayed gratification rather than safe sex. They’re great kids. They know not to eat the marshmallow.