For many parents, Prom is just an expensive extra-curricular that will likely be disappointing and isn't nearly as all important as their teenage daughter may think it to be. However, Prom is also a rite of passage and most of us are willing to play along even if we know our daughter won't actually die if she doesn't find the perfect dress. But what if I told you that Prom can provide some really incredible opportunities for teachable moments? It's true! Many young adults have never had to prepare for a special occasion, and as it is certainly something they will encounter in the future, this is a great time to help them learn the steps.
The process of planning and preparing for Prom actually provides several instances which you can use to teach your child valuable life skills without them even knowing it! Trust me, it's going to be great, stay with me.
Prom prep can provide a useful opportunity to learn and practice skills needed in the future.
This one is huge! How often does your teenager start thinking about something 3-6 months in advance? Probably not very much and if they do, kudos to you! If, however, they are like my kids prom provides the perfect opportunity to work on their planning skills. If your daughter is having a dress made for prom, she needs to start picking out styles and thinking about colors about 6 months out. Once she's found a style she loves she can see a seamstress and work on the details of how to bring her dress to life! If she is opting for a store-bought dress she'll still want to have it selected about 3 months prior so that she can have any alterations made that may be needed. The key to looking and feeling great in a dress (especially if she's never worn a formal dress before) is that it fit just right. Not only is the fit important for the look of the dress, it's important that it not slip, pull or tear anywhere while she's dancing the night away!
Planning out the details of prom and the day of prom itself is another fabulous opportunity to help your child learn time management skills. Suggesting that she create a timeline will allow her to see how helpful it can be to know she has all the details ironed out ahead of time, such as hair and makeup appointments, dinner reservations, how long it will take her to get to and from prom etc. Learning to schedule and accomplish tasks on time is an invaluable skill and prom is the perfect time to learn in a fun way.
Unless your daughter is working, you are likely the one footing the bill for prom. However, that doesn't mean you should just hand her a blank check and hope there's a sale. This is the perfect time to help your daughter learn how to budget. Set a reasonable limit for Prom spending and help guide her to stay within it. If you give her a total of $500 and she falls in love with a dress that's $499 she'll have to make some uncomfortable decisions and compromises to stay within her budget. This is a skill she will need for the rest of her life as she begins to work and manage her own finances. Having a limit set before heading out to shop can also help avoid any potential miscommunications or meltdowns. By giving her a limit you are giving her control and responsibility and she will be able to feel proud of herself when she finds what she needs and doesn't break the budget.
Speaking of responsibility, most teenagers lack experience in making phone calls and setting appointments. As their parents we tend to handle this area of life for them, but it is important that they learn how to conduct themselves on the phone and also how to schedule. These are skills that will be necessary in day to day life both personally and professionally. Have your daughter find a salon, price the services and make her own appointments. This reinforces the skills of budgeting and time management that she's been working on. Having your daughter make these phone calls also frees up the time you spend together for the more fun parts of Prom planning like scanning Pinterest for hair and makeup ideas or learning to dance!
This is also a great time to help your daughter understand how important it is to keep the appointments she makes. If something comes up and she needs to cancel one, be sure to have her make the phone call so that she has the experience of re-scheduling an appointment because, as we all know, this is something that will surely come up again!
If your daughter is having a custom dress designed you will find there are even more opportunities for teachable moments, she will have to work with a professional and gain the experience of articulating what she wants and moving through the process of dress making which involves multiple fittings, choices over fabrics and colors, and perhaps most importantly, learning to speak up politely and with confidence if the dress isn't looking or fitting the way she had envisioned it. She will also learn through the process to respect the time it takes to create something beautiful and this perspective will help her as she works with other professionals in the future.
Prom is a big night for a lot of teens, it's a night when they get to feel like a grown up but they still have the safety net of mom and dad. In your preparation for Prom you can also take the opportunity to talk about accountability and help your child understand that someday, in the not so distant future, she'll be out in the world and it's important she know how to conduct herself. The more you encourage her to plan the more responsibility she will feel to make sure everything goes smoothly, this is a wonderful opportunity for her to start considering accountability and how her actions affect others.
Many schools host Prom in a location outside the school which depending on the size of your town your child may be unfamiliar with. Make sure she knows how to get to and from Prom even if she's being chauffeured. It's important to teach her to always be aware of her surroundings and to have a plan in case something goes wrong or she needs to come home early. Of course you'll be there if she needs you but it will be empowering for her to know she could find her own way if she had to!
For many teens, organization is a struggle. Preparing for Prom is the perfect opportunity to teach your daughter some useful organizational skills such as keeping a list of those in her prom party, writing down the dates, phone numbers and locations of her appointments for hair and makeup etc. You can even help her to make a timeline by practicing hair and makeup/getting ready and timing how long it will take to reach her destination. This will also give her the opportunity to consider that she should allot time for things like taking pictures, greeting friends and her date and saying goodbye to mom and dad. Take a look at her timeline and gently remind her of the little things she may have forgotten.
Prom involves a lot of things that may have never come up before, if this is your child's first formal event you can teach her the value of thinking ahead by helping her make a list of everything she will need on the day of Prom and helping her lay it out the night before. Go over the list with her and make sure she's allowed time for washing her hair the night before or stopping for gas on the way to her appointments. By doing this she will learn the importance of attention to detail and hopefully she will see how much time and stress can be saved by being prepared.
Another great opportunity for preparedness is helping her decide what to keep in her clutch. She may think she needs only her tickets, phone and lip gloss, but as her mom you know there are so
many little things that could happen it helps to have an emergency kit on hand. Some things you might want to remind her as you make a list together include; safety pins - just in case a strap or a flower comes loose, bobby pins - in case her hair or a friend's hair starts coming down, bandaids - because we all know what a night of dancing in new heels can do to our feet, clear polish - in case she gets a run in her hose and some cash just in case of an emergency. She might also want to toss in some mints, perfume (testers fit great in a clutch) and tissues.
Along with hair and make-up appointments, you can have your daughter make her own dinner reservations, arrange for transportation and get confirmation from her prom party on meeting times and locations. You can take advantage of the opportunity to show your daughter how to be a leader and the confidence she will gain from this will be invaluable to her in the future. She may also learn to appreciate the amount of effort and planning that go into the little things she never noticed before, like making dental appointments or coordinating her after school activities. You might be surprised to find that she continues to put her skills to use right away.
At the end of the day, Prom really is about a fun and special night, but by taking advantage of these teachable moments you've given your daughter an incredible gift that she will learn to appreciate later in life. Enjoy this exciting time with your child and encourage her enthusiasm, because even while you're teaching her to grow-up, you know she's already growing up too fast.
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