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Do we have Prom Pressure?

March 24, 2020

GONE are the days when a sweaty school-hall disco or an impromptu meet-up at the local park cut it for a school’s out celebration. Today, the end-of-term Year 11 party is a US-style extravaganza, inspired by teen MTV shows The Hills and My Super Sweet 16 where privileged young people do glitzy, glamorous and extravagant parties.

Renamed the “prom”, our new end-of-term ball is less about uncertain, spotty 16-year-olds shuffling around a dark dance floor and more about young women shimmying out of limousines clad in couture, posing celeb-like for photographers.

There’s a new-style party with teens fretting about looking glamorous enough and parents (many of whom can’t afford it) spending thousands of pounds on the “perfect” ball gown, blow-dry, spray tan, manicure and obligatory hire of extravagant transport so their 16-year-old arrives in the fashion expected.

On average parents spend £450 on prom night, rising to more than £650 in Manchester, £630 in Brighton and £600 in Newcastle.

It’s like a mini wedding. The girls have pre-prom parties with their friends on the morning  of the prom with a hairdresser and make-up artist on hand. It’s hardly surprising some parents feel pressured into pulli out all the stops.

Deborah Newton from Lincoln spent £2,000 on her daughter Steph’s prom last year and believes it was worth it. “I have three sons and Steph is my only daughter so  I wanted her to look like a princess for the day,” she says.

“Steph fell in love with a £700 pink silk and satin dress embellished with pearls and I ordered a fairytale horse and carriage to take her and a friend to the prom. She had a personal hair and make-up artist,  a stole, bag and tiara and it brought a lump to my throat to see how beautiful she looked. 

How to relieve “prom pressure”:

  • Set a realistic budget for the event and don’t let your child get caught up in the expensive hairstyles and dresses. Transportation can be as easy as the family car. Find less expensive options for all these things and talk to your child about the importance of saving for other important impending events, like their education. Most importantly, don’t allow your child to make comparisons to peers. Share with your child what you can afford and your expectations for how they should look. Encouragement on how to find a prom dress to suit you vs spending a huge amount should be encouraged!
  • Reassure your child that they look good regardless of how much their suit or dress cost, or what kind of car they arrive to the prom in. Explain to them that the dress, car, suit or hairstyle does not define who they are, but it is how they feel about themselves on the inside that matters.
  • Build their feelings of self-worth by reassuring them that it’s okay if they are rejected by the person they hope to attend prom with, or if they aren’t asked at all. The focus should be ongoing with someone – a date or a friend with whom they’ll have fun and enjoy the experience with.
  • Talk to your teen about what they want to get out of the night – is it to wear the most expensive dress or rent the flashiest car, or is it to dance, mingle and have fun with their friends? Parents can role model for their teens the importance of being present in the moment and taking it all in. Encourage your teen to absorb the sights, smells, sounds and tastes of the evening – things they can’t focus on if they’re too busy wondering if their suit or dress is better than everyone else’s.
  • Instead of hiring a photographer, encourage your child to use an app like Wedding Photo Swap where they can take and exchange photos with their friends and have them kept in one handy place!

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