Prom is right around the corner, and when I see photos and video clips of the dresses worn this year, a sympathetic grimace creeps over my face. I remember all too well the dilemma of finding the perfect prom dress. People spend over four billion dollars on prom each year, and advertisers and department stores are not about to lose out on that opportunity.
The dresses are incredibly revealing this year and that has nothing to do with fashion. What’s hot in Italy right now is a more elegant, almost demure look on young women. The focus is on the face, not the body. However, the dresses here often sexualize and objectify young women. Girls purchasing these dresses are trying to look attractive and “in” with their friends who are also trying to look attractive and “in.” I am no longer sure who is “in,” but I am sure of one thing: parents must be “out.” Instead of being buddies with their child, parents must be ready to set boundaries and follow through with rules.
I do recommend that moms shop with their daughters. Moms have watched their daughter’s body change and understand her style. Moms also often control the pocket-book and setting budget limits is a big part of shopping for anything. It is important for girls to feel attractive and confident about their choice so moms don’t need to make the decision; however, moms can provide insight. Moms should know the school requirements for prom dresses and be supportive of them.
I recommend that moms talk with their daughter about the dress she chooses. Many girls don’t see the big picture; asking simple questions such as, “Can you dance or move in this dress?” is important. Moms have the foresight to mention how her daughter’s date may feel about the dress, or what kind of message the dress sends to her date’s parents (who will no doubt want photos).
A prom is a rite of passage and a wonderful opportunity to teach your daughter the importance of making good choices. We must encourage our children to make choices and learn from their mistakes, and they need to practice this at home. Parents allow children to practice by setting clear boundaries and then following through with consequences. Choosing a prom dress is a great place to begin.
Explain why the dress is inappropriate. Does it show too much skin, flatter her body in a negative way, or make her look as if she is trying to get sexual attention?
Explain why the behavior is inappropriate. She may want attention in general rather than sexual attention. Explain that if she wants to be respected, a better choice would help her attain that. Explain that girls who wear revealing garments often feel undesired and have a shallow self-esteem, and they attract people who make them feel that way even more.
Give reasonable choices and consequences. Give options where your child can choose A or B, but ensure both options are still within your rules as a parent. This can help reduce acting out and power struggles. Be sure they are aware of the consequences of their choice. Healthy parenting means the child knows and understands the choices at hand and the consequences of breaking a parental rule!
Allow time for your teen to think about their choice. Time helps them rationalize the choice in their mind, vent to a friend, and make a wiser choice.
Be prepared to enforce your consequences. The term “this isn’t fair” is used by a kid whose parents have not followed through on the consequences of a poor choice. Remember that you are your child’s parent and not their friend.
Prom is a wonderful event, but without parental guidance it can turn into a nightmare. Your daughter wants to look beautiful and sexy, but some dresses send the wrong message. If you are a mom, you have an experienced voice and so much to offer your daughter during this special time in her life. Be supportive of her feelings, but keep the big picture in mind. She must learn that what she chooses to wear will affect her reputation.
Teaching your child how to make wise choices is often the part of parenting we neglect because it is difficult to follow through. During the teen years, loving your child means saying, “NO, you are much too wonderful to stoop that low.” Love her enough to help her choose a prom dress, but don’t let her walk out of the house looking less than the beautiful child you held in your arms at birth.