How to Be a Cool Prom Mom
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How to Be a Cool Prom Mom

A step-by-step guide to making your daughter's prom a special time for both of you.

The Prom Guide

It's finally arrived: your daughter's prom! This time around you can't wear the dress and you won't get the corsage. But you can be your daughter's prom guru. Use this eight-week schedule to stay involved and play it cool.

8 Weeks Before

Shop for the dress. Most girls want Mom's input when buying the sacred gown, so today is your day to shine. Shopping is a good opportunity to talk about prom night concerns. Share your values about drinking, drugs, and sex, and encourage your daughter to talk freely. Today she needs your wallet and your advice, so she'll be more willing to chat.

Betsy Wolf, whose daughter, Taryn, attended two proms, advises that you shop early: "With finals, AP exams, SATs, and SAT IIs, there isn't a lot of time."

Hint: Save time for dress alterations -- one mom we know didn't and had to staple her daughter's hem!

6 Weeks Before

Book beauty appointments. Schedule hair, makeup, nails, waxing -- the whole nine yards. Prom is the busiest time of year for salons, so nag your daughter to call in advance.

Hint: Book makeup after the hair appointment; blow-dryers melt makeup!

Reserve a limo. Persuade your daughter to book a limousine early, or you'll be stuck bussing a group of shrieking teens. Help the group to divide costs and ensure they found a responsible company and driver. Call the limo company and ask for prices -- they'll give a more honest answer to an adult.

Offer to host a pre-prom party. Organize a pre-prom bash to involve yourself in your daughter's prom experience. Invite your daughters' friends and their family members to your house one hour before the limo arrives. Serve chips and veggies with dip, fresh fruit, and other easy snacks. You can make the occasion even more festive with virgin pina coladas and strawberry daiquiris.

2 Weeks Before

Be supportive of her date. It might be her long-term boyfriend. It might be that mystery guy who calls late at night. It might be a name you've never heard before. Finding a prom date is your daughter's number one stressor, so be understanding. Try to get the scoop, but refrain from asking nosy questions (the ones that elicit "Mo-om!"). If possible, ask to meet him once before the prom.

Get her plan for the night. Discuss your daughter's post-prom plans. Activities usually range from dancing at a club to attending a school-sponsored event. Let her know you're available to drive anytime and will be home all night in case of an emergency. Taryn says moms should understand prom's significance: "Parents have to know that prom isn't a regular Friday or Saturday night."

Address the hotel issue. If your daughter wants to stay at a hotel, parenting expert Jan Faull, MEd, suggests you discuss your feelings with her. If you feel uncomfortable allowing her to stay at a hotel, be honest. "Explain that you want them to be together for the night; it sounds like fun. You just want to make sure that there is some parental supervision and that they are safe," Faull says. "It's because you love them, not because you want to control every aspect of their lives, which is what they'll think unless you clarify your motives."

As a compromise, offer to have the group (boys included) sleep in your basement, Faull recommends. Taryn and her prom pals all slept over at one friend's house and had a great time.


The Big Day

Plan a mother-daughter breakfast. Wake up at 9 a.m. and cook a meal together or go to your favorite cafe. Breakfast together is another good opportunity to discuss the difficult choices that often come with prom night. Encourage your daughter to talk openly about drinking, drugs, and sex.

Hint: The less you ask, the more she might be willing to spill!

Lend her jewelry. Offer her your favorite necklace or a family heirloom to wear. This shows your daughter that you understand the importance of this special occasion. She'll have a reminder of you (and your values!) all night.

Manicures for two. Finally -- a part of the day where moms can primp, too! Schedule manicures and pedicures for two and enjoy an hour of complete relaxation.

Hair. Take your daughter to get her hair done at around 10 a.m. Suggest that she go for a trial 'do the week before to make sure she loves the style. If time or money doesn't permit, advise her to bring magazine cut-outs to show the hairdresser exactly what she wants.

Makeup. Save money by getting a makeover at the mall. Most beauty counters offer free makeovers if you buy a few products. Purchase a lip gloss so she can refresh throughout the night. Prompt cosmetic-savvy daughters to apply their own makeup -- sometimes they best even the professionals! Taryn didn't wear much makeup, so her friend came over and applied it. "We spent most of the time goofing around," Taryn says, giggling. Sounds like a great way to let loose before the big night!

Prom Tips

Take hundreds of photos. "This is the one time when kids are really happy to get their pictures taken," Betsy says. Taryn agrees: "Parents get to ooh and aah at their children, and you want to take a picture with your date, and these two friends, and this friend -- it's nuts! It's all pictures! But it's part of the prom experience. Without it, it just wouldn't be the same." Snap away, Mom!

Try not to cry. When you kiss your princess goodbye, the last thing she wants to see are your tears. Your daughter's prom is a touching milestone, but save the sniffles for after the limo pulls away. She'll thank you later.

Don't abuse the cell phone. As tempting as it is to dial your daughter throughout the night, call her cell phone for emergencies only. To sidestep this issue, plan check-in times with your daughter. Touch base once that night and once the next morning if she is staying out. Betsy understands this limit: "When they go to the prom, they're at the prom."

Do something special for yourself. Now that she's off to enjoy her night, treat your partner and yourself to a night of nostalgia. Make popcorn, watch home videos of your little girl, and reminisce about your own proms. Plan to stay in so you'll be home if she needs you. After the eight-week prom marathon, your body will welcome the rest!

Originally published on, April 2005.