Mom, You're So Embarrassing!

By Chandra Orr

March 5, 2010 5 min read

There's something about prom.

This major teen milestone has the ability to send even the sanest mom and dad into crazy-parent mode -- and though every teen knows there's nothing you parents love more than embarrassing them, now is not the time.

"Teens want to be trusted and treated with respect, especially on prom night," says personal life coach Connie Love. "Gushing about how wonderful they are, hanging around too long at picture-taking time, reminding them of the ground rules in front of their dates -- these things are mortifying to teens because they are trying so hard to be grown-ups on prom night."

Save your teen the heartache. Play it cool and keep a low profile on their big night.

*Skip the Lecture

Don't wait until the big night to touch on touchy subjects. Conversations about curfews, sex and drinking don't need an audience.

"The pre-prom moment isn't the time for lecturing your teen," says Ellen Rittberg, author of "35 Things Your Teen Won't Tell You, So I Will." "Parents should be offering reminders about sex and drinking, but not there in front of everyone right before the send-off."

Instead, discuss your expectations for prom in the weeks leading up to the event.

"Teens can face a lot of pressure to have sex on prom night, whether it's from a friend, a partner or their own desire to 'get it over with' before they go to college," says Amber Madison, author of "Talking Sex With Your Kids: Keeping Them Safe and You Sane -- By Knowing What They're Really Thinking." "Remind them that having sex because of pressure from a partner or friends will certainly lead to regrets -- and the prom isn't an excuse for a partner to be pushy about sex."

Just don't remind them in front of their dates.

"For the most productive talks, you have to talk to your teens when they can focus on what you are saying and actually digest the information," Madison says. "Right as they're running out the door to the prom isn't a time when they're going to be receptive to hearing your advice."

While tackling weightier subjects, be sure to stress the importance of check-in phone calls and curfew -- but be flexible. This is a big night, after all.

*Act Your Age

You may feel young at heart, but teens want parents to act their age, so skip the slang and don't try to impress your teen's friends.

"Parents shouldn't act like teenagers. This is a big no-no," Rittberg says. "Teens want their parents to act appropriately parental, which means they don't stick out in any way, shape or form."

Be on your best behavior -- no arguing or nitpicking in front of the prom-goers, no reminiscing over your own wild teen antics, no games of "pull my finger."

"If parents don't understand that bizarre or extreme behavior will totally spoil their teen's special day, they should just put some tape over their mouths and zipper it," Rittberg says.

In addition to putting on your best behavior, don your best duds. Skip the cleavage-baring outfits; put away the sloppy sweatpants; and change out of that Jimi Hendrix T-shirt you've been rocking since 1974.

"Showing up as a sloppily dressed or poorly groomed parent can be a huge embarrassment to a teen on prom night," Rittberg explains. "Straighten up for that all-important ritual gathering prior to the limousine taking off."

*Dont Go Overboard

Keep the compliments short and sweet. It goes against every parent's instinct, but now is not the time to bombard your teens with praise or brag about them in front of friends.

"Teens want to hear that they look beautiful and handsome -- because they do!" Rittberg says. "But here's the caveat: Keep it brief and sincere."

"If you need to gush, spread it around and compliment all of their friends and dates, because chances are they all look stupendous," Rittberg says.

Feel free to capture your teens' good looks on film, but know when to stop snapping.

"It's understandable that parents want to capture such a momentous occasion by taking copious amounts of photographs, but not knowing when to step away and put the camera down can easily embarrass your teen," Rittberg says.

Discuss the photo session with your teens ahead of time, and establish a reasonable compromise as to how many photos to snap. Set a time limit so your teens don't feel rushed to make their dinner reservation.

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