The Illusion of Prom Perfection

Parents should encourage hobbies and other skills, and downplay the importance of appearance, say experts at Bradley Hospital.

Continuous positive feedback from parents to their daughters on characteristics unrelated to appearance and dress size helps cultivate self confidence. However, if daughters begin to obsess about dress size or needing to look 'perfect' for the prom, mental health professionals say it may help to remind them that the images in teen magazines are not real, and tricks such as airbrushing are marketing techniques used to sell dresses and cosmetics.

Be sure to challenge the rigid, "all-or-none thinking" behind the idea that every detail of the prom must be perfect. Ask teens what their happiest memories in life have been so far. Most likely it was during spontaneous events that weren't planned in minute detail.

In addition, to alleviate the pressure of finding a prom date, experts suggest that parents should convey to teens that it can be just as much, if not more fun to attend the prom with a group of friends.

Talking about S-E-X

While prom is technically about a last dance for high school seniors, it remains a persistent cultural icon as venue for sexual activity. According to Larry Brown, MD with the Bradley Hasbro Children's Research Center, too frequently we refer to talking to our teenage children about sex as "Having the big talk." The label "Big Talk" is misleading because it implies that the talk only happens once and that it is a torturous event.

"Neither is true-there can be multiple talks, and you can use day-to-day, natural opportunities, such as remarking about sex presented on a TV show, to start a conversation," says Brown.

He notes that a 15-minute ride to the grocery store or to school is plenty of time to start a conversation, and that small sound bytes can be more effective than 1-hour conversations that may leave your teen feeling overwhelmed.

In order to elicit a two-way conversation, parents should refrain from passing judgment, and initiate a conversation by asking the teen's opinion-for example, say "I heard this on the news, what did you think about that?" rather than, "I cannot believe 14- and 15-year-olds are having sex."

"Passing judgment will close doors to future conversations," says Brown.

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