Q: My daughter, a junior, is looking forward to going to her high school prom in a few weeks. But I'm worried about the hedonistic atmosphere. What's your perspective on this?
Jim: There are a number of good reasons to be concerned about what goes on during and after a high school prom -- everything from immodest dress and dancing to sexual activity to drug and alcohol abuse. It can be a real challenge to guide your teen wisely through this minefield.
You can defuse some of the danger by simply asking your daughter about her plans and expectations. Why does she want to go so badly? What does she expect to happen when she gets there?
The list of bad reasons for going to prom is considerable -- and yet most of them are promoted in teen magazines. They include things like finding a "boyfriend" or "girlfriend" and hooking up, or simply impressing others with clothes and limousines that come with hefty price tags.
But there can be positive reasons for attending prom, too. Your daughter might be allowed to take part in this event as a reward for hard work, personal integrity or academic achievement. She can be encouraged to see it as a chance to deepen strong friendships in a group setting. In fact, going with a group of friends -- rather than with an exclusive "date" -- can be a great way for your daughter and her pals to keep one another accountable in the face of prom's temptations.
Gaining a sense of your daughter's intentions for prom night can either confirm your anxieties or bolster your confidence. Either way, you'll have more solid information on which to base your decision. If you choose to let her attend, you can enhance the experience by getting excited about it with her. If, on the other hand, this process of investigation leaves you feeling uncomfortable about prom night, you can explore alternative activities together -- many of which are far less expensive!
Juli: For many men, technology has become a way to escape from the pressures of work and family life. You may be shocked to learn that 53 percent of all American adults play video or computer games. Add that to the hours the average American watches TV and checks email and Facebook, and you can see that this is a common problem.
It's much easier for your husband to tune out while at home than to interact or contribute to family chores. Nagging him about it isn't likely to help. Most likely, you'll need to be more intentional about getting his attention.
Start by asking to have a conversation with him. When you have his full attention, tell him how much you miss him and how it concerns you to see so much of his time plugged into technology. Tell him that while you recognize his need to unwind, you also need him to be more present in the home.
Then ask him to come up with some reasonable guidelines, like no technology during meals, no more than two hours in the evening, etc. If he's unwilling to do this, I'd insist on meeting with a third party, such as a mentor couple or counselor. This is more than a time waster. It can be a marriage killer, so treat it that seriously.
Dr. Juli Slattery is a licensed psychologist, co-host of Focus on the Family, author of several books, and a wife and mother of three.)
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