8 Prom Tips for Parents
The prom, for many teenagers, is the ultimate event of their young lives. It
represents a major transition to adulthood. It is possibly the last time all of
a youth's high school friends will be together at a school social event.
It is also the most hyped-up event of the teenage life cycle. Television
programs, magazines and websites all play it up as some kind of sacred ritual.
But the prom is about much more than that: sex, alcohol and drugs are more
often than not crucial features of prom night. It's a time many young people
decide to lose their virginity; a large number of youth get so drunk, they have
no recollection of who was with them and what they did on prom night; there are
also those who experiment with drugs.
In some very tragic cases, it's also the night some youth die in
alcohol-related traffic accidents.
The prom is not some fairy tale graduation party. There are dangers for all
youth, but especially Muslim youth. Parents have a responsibility to convey the
reality of of t his ritual to their sometimes star-struck teenagers, who may be
caught up in prom night hype with the rest of their friends.
Sound Vision spoke to four young Muslim men and women about how parents can
deal effectively discuss the prom with their children. Below are some of their
and our tips and suggestions.
Tip #1: Start early
“If you're talking to your kid in March of their graduating year about why they
should not want to go to the Prom, then this is not the time for a rational
discussion, this is the time for damage control,” says Shaema Imam, 21.
The hype surrounding the prom is a yearly occurrence. If youth don't already
know about it in primary school through television and magazines, the beginning
of high school is where they will definitely find out about it. The beginning
of junior high is an ideal time to start talking about the prom. At that point,
your son or daughter is still young, and Mom and Dad still have some influence
The talk should not be confrontational or accusatory, rather, it should be
educational. Parents should know what is Halal fun and what is not and convey
that to their children.
Tip #2: Provide a Muslim environment
This means ensuring young Muslims are surrounded by and befriend other
practicing Muslims of their own age. When it comes to the prom, very often the
deciding factor in whether a youth goes or not is what friends are doing.
“I would say most guys would follow the group,” says Shadi Sakr, 22.
If the youth has no Muslim friends, he or she may not understand why they were
allowed to do other things with their non-Muslim friends, but they cannot go to
“Kids will say ‘why did you let me play with these people and sleep over with
these people and party with these people and then all of a sudden you're
forbidding me to participate in this. It's the same thing,” says Imam.
“You have to make the kid establish a bond with other Muslim kids,” says Ali
Shayan, 20. “The person has to belong to a group.”
Tip #3: Practice what you preach
Encouraging your kids to hang out with the “Muslim crowd” will have little
effect if you as a parent are surrounded by friends who engage in unIslamic
behavior or who do not practice Islam themselves. Kids learn by example, and
seeing their parents interact with friends who are practicing Muslims will
provide an incentive early on for them to do the same.
By the same token, maintaining a Halal home environment is also critical in
ensuring your children become Muslims committed to Islamic values.
Tip #4: Provide Halal Alternatives
Parents have to understand that Ammar or Yasmeen will be depressed, in most
cases, if they do not go to the prom. That's why they must provide Halal
One suggestion is to have a party at home, which is what Amber Rehman, 20, did
instead of going to her prom. “It's all a matter of being with people you spend
time with,” she says.
This, of course, does not have to be on the same night as Prom night. But
establishing an alternative does not start one week before the date. It begins
years in advance, with sports and social activities being organized for Muslim
youth at the community level.
Tip #5: Make your kids "school smart"
This is especially true for Muslim youth who attend public school. Parents need
to familiarize themselves with the public school environment as best as they
can. In many cases, Muslim parents don't have a clue about what goes on there,
especially if they themselves did not attend school in the United States or
other Western countries.
Ideally, parents should speak to an older, practicing, Muslim who has gone
through the school system and get the scoop on what goes on there.
Better yet, they should get this person to become a mentor for their son or daughter
(the mentor should be the same gender as the child). By the time the prom rolls
around, you will have the perfect person available to explain to your son or
daughter why s/he can't go.
Tip #6: Familiarize yourself with the Prom
Islam stresses the importance of acting on the basis of accurate information,
and you should try to do the same with the prom. Talk to the above-mentioned
older Muslim youth. Talk to the school's administrators and the prom committee
to find out what exactly is being planned.
This way, your son or daughter won't think Mom or Dad is a hysterical parent,
but a well-informed one. This facilitates rational dialog and the likelihood of
your perspective being taken seriously.
Shadi Sakr says if he were telling his son or daughter not to go to the prom,
he would “just [tell] them all these stories and I would explain the whole
environment or atmosphere [there].”
Explain the dangers. Tell them even if they don't drink, their non-Muslim
friends most likely will. This could mean car accidents. For girls, it could
mean sexual harassment and even worse, rape.
Talk to them about Islam's prohibition of not even going near those things and
situations that facilitate sex outside of marriage, and that the Prom
environment does exactly that. Also discuss how we are not recommended to even
be in a place where alcohol is being served, even if we ourselves don't drink.
Be calm. Be firm. But also, be gentle. It's easy to get excited and upset, but
that is exactly the kind of reaction that will push your children away from you
and your message.
Also make it clear that you are not against them having fun,
as long as this is done in a Halal manner. This could be where you discuss
alternative plans for prom night.
Tip #7: Appeal to their conscience
In discussing the prom, it helps to stress individual accountability to Allah.
Your son or daughter must be reminded that s/he is, from an Islamic
perspective, an adult, and therefore fully accountable for his/her actions in
front of Allah.
Tip #8: Make Dua (supplication to Allah)
“Never underestimate the power of Dua,” Imam Siraj Wahhaj of Masjid Taqwa in
Brooklyn, New York once said.
Sakr's case is one practical example of that.
“My mother said when she was right in front of the Kaba that she made Dua I
would not go [to the Prom],” he says. His parents went to Hajj that year, and
returned a few days before his prom. Sakr went from being on the school's Prom
committee, to dropping out but still insisting on going, then finally not going
If you missed the opportunity at Hajj, all hope is not lost. Allah is
All-Hearing and All-Seeing and all power is in His Hands. You can make Dua to
Him at almost any other time.
HOW TO DEAL WITH PROM:
Anatomy of the Prom: What is it about?
The Prom Exposed: Seeing it for what it really is
How to Say No To The Prom: 6 tips
Why I boycotted the Senior Prom? Dawud Wharnsby Ali
7 Prom Tips For Teens
10 things you can do besides go to the Prom
7 Things Muslim communities can do about Proms
10 Prom Tips for Parents