Prom Challenges Parents on Rules and Limits

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As the weather warms up and the school year nears its end, thousands of students in New York City are getting ready for prom. For teenagers, this important rite of passage requires some significant planning. Dresses and tuxedos are bought or rented, coordinating flowers are chosen, and after-prom arrangements are made.

But what role do parents play in all of these preparations?

In most cases, parents are the piggy banks. That was the case for Stanley Ng, whose daughter attends Stuyvesant High School, which will hold its junior prom on June 5.

“I just gave her money and she shopped for a dress online and paid for the tickets,” said Ng, who is also a member of the Citywide Council for High Schools. “It was pretty reasonable. She has a level head on her shoulders.”

Lana Fraser, a parent in East Flatbush, Brooklyn, said her daughter’s preparations for a formal gala at her private Christian school was costing a lot of money.

“It’s like she’s getting married. I put her on a budget but it didn’t work out,” Fraser said. “When you’re a child, you’re not spending your own money so you have no concern for what it costs.”

According to a survey by Visa Inc., average spending of American families on prom increased by 34 percent this year, from $807 to $1,078.

When confronted with disappointing her child, Fraser’s budget limitations began to flex, she said.

“They’ve worked hard all year and it’s a very special event, so that’s why even though I’m on a budget, I went over it. At the end of the day, she wants to feel like she’s being appreciated so its hard to say no,” said Fraser.

Curfews also become negotiable on prom night.

David Bloomfield, a Brooklyn College education professor, said his sons were not given a set curfew as long as they stayed safe within the city.

“I was blissfully ignorant of the evening’s activities,” Bloomfield said. But Bloomfield is quick to point out that trusting your kids doesn’t mean giving them carte blanche.

“Speaking as not only a parent, but a former elementary school teacher, children like and want limits,” Bloomfield said. “Don’t be afraid to set reasonable limits. It will probably be a relief to your kids as well as yourselves.”

Are you a parent of a student attending prom? Tell us how you are managing the potential land mines of budget, curfews and teenage drama.