Pressure to be Perfect: Prom Edition
What do you remember about your prom?
I don’t recall the details but I know I had fun. I didn’t stress about my hair, makeup, or how much I weighed. There were no Promposals. I went with my boyfriend and two other couples in a car. We took some pictures at the house and went to the prom and danced. There were no hotel rooms afterwards or renting a beach house at the ocean. It was pretty simple.
That was old school prom, but those days are gone.
It should come to no surprise that the pressure and harsh competition that our kids face on a day-to-day basis at school would infiltrate prom. The (prom) bar is set so high that no teen can achieve it. This is definitely amped up in the ever-present snapchat instagram and all-other-social-media land. Your daughter can in real time compare herself to everyone else in her class. Even if the boy of your dreams asks you to prom but doesn’t do it in a big wow Promposal way, you can feel like a loser.
This pressure to be perfect can turn your sweet easygoing girl into Promzilla.
Girls are under extreme pressure to look perfect on prom night. Elise is a beautiful, smart, compassionate and talented senior girl. However she started stressing about how she would look in her prom pictures in the fall of her senior year. This caused her to go down the slippery slope of an eating disorder. She was able to turn this around when she realized that she was beautiful at the weight she was and she stopped worrying about what everyone else would say about her. She told me what she really wanted was to have fun with her friends at prom.
With so much pressure on girls to have the perfect body, the perfect dress, the perfect hair and makeup, the perfect Promposal, the perfect date, and be in the perfect group they are going to be edgy, moody, irritable, and often will lash out…
Because no girl can achieve those perfectionistic standards.
When your daughter looks in the mirror trying on prom dresses or when she gets her hair or makeup done, the first thing she sees is what’s wrong with her and what doesn’t measure up to perfection.
Prom is hard for moms too. We are invested emotionally and financially. Most often we are paying for this entire prom phenomenon. The average amount of money spent on a prom dress is $195.00. The average cost of a prom ticket is $75.00. The average cost of a prom limousine for four hours is $450.00. And that’s just the basics. All we want is a little appreciation, but too often our princess turns into Promzilla because she thinks she looks fat in her new prom dress.
Prom is a rite of passage for many teens. Because they are graduating from High School, teens feel they should be free of curfews and have their independence. Prom may be a rite of passage but you are still the parents and have a right to protect your kids on prom night. Many teens binge drink on prom night. One study in 2005 showed that 53% of students drank more than 4 drinks on prom night.
Often moms are pressured by their daughters and other parents to relax their rules and curfew. Because of this we can have a lot of fear. Here’s what you can do.
How to Have a Happy Healthy Prom Night
1. Don’t take things personally.
It’s easy to think your daughter is so entitled when she has a meltdown about her dress. You are only seeing the tip of the iceberg. Underneath the surface your daughter is feeling the pressure to be perfect. Her internal voice is often mean, telling her that she is ugly, fat, a loser, and she will be made fun of by her peers. This is the time to give her a little grace.
2. Be there for her to share her feelings.
Since the (prom) bar is so high, your daughter is bound to be disappointed or hurt. Be there for her to share her emotions. When you can, validate her feelings. Don’t tell her that she is being negative or making a big deal out of nothing. She is being vulnerable with you and that’s a good thing. Share a story when you felt the same way. Let her know that you were able to get to the other side. Share an embarrassing story and how you lived through that. Later, when she gets past the emotional moment, you can share your advice.
3. Be clear on your limits and boundaries.
Your clarity can dial down the drama. Be clear on how much you are willing to spend on a dress or dinner. Be clear on your curfew and transportation. Be clear about what you are okay with after prom. If you aren’t comfortable with the hotel room, then don’t cave. If you want your daughter to be a part of the schools structured after prom party, then encourage her to sign up. You want to do everything you can beforehand to make sure she is set up to have a fun time with her friends and that she is protected.
Part of the clarity is getting your partner on board and clearly communicating your thoughts, guidelines, and limits with your teen beforehand.
4. Plan other positive adventures
If your daughter is not going to prom or doesn’t like her date, you want her to know it’s not the end of the world. A great way to do that is to have a positive adventure planned after prom. This could be a family trip to Colorado, backpacking trip with her youth group, or going on a dance intensive in NYC. It helps to have something she can look forward to where she can develop her gifts and know she will be around likeminded peers.
5. Be a Positive Mirror
When you have dealt with your worries and fears about prom and have taken effective action, then you can put worry and fear in the proverbial back seat. On prom night, be a positive mirror for your daughter. Be conscious of your body language. Smile with delight when she walks in the room in her dress. This is not the time to frown at her because of her low cut dress or that she is wearing too much eyeliner. Tell her she looks beautiful. Let her know that you hope she has a great time with her friends and that you can’t wait to hear about it. Demonstrate that you are celebrating with her.