National Catholic Register


Should We Let Our Kids Go to Prom?

BY Jennifer Fulwiler

| Posted 4/15/11 at 7:26 AM


The hot topic in the local Catholic mommy groups this month is prom. A few families I know have had daughters invited to proms at some of the public high schools around here (some of the girls are students at the schools, others are homeschoolers who were invited by students), and it’s left the parents pondering the question: Is the typical modern prom an appropriate event for a young person striving for holiness?

My first reaction was to breathe a sigh of relief that I have over a decade until I’ll have to confront this question. But as the mother of four daughters, I’ve followed my friends’ discussions with interest. (Our friend Allen Hebert wrote a great piece detailing the discernment process that his family went through after his homeschooled daughter was invited to a big high school’s prom by a neighbor. Definitely worth reading.)

The reasons Catholic parents might not want to let their kids attend are obvious. At many high school proms today, some or all of the following are rampant:

Around this time last year, my husband and I happened to be at a hotel that was hosting a prom. When we passed the ballroom, a song was blaring about getting drunk and “hooking up,” and some of the girls were walking around in dresses fit for a Lady Gaga backup dancer. There was a distinct vibe in the place, and it wasn’t good. My knee-jerk reaction was to think: My kids are never going to a secular prom.

But maybe I overreacted. My friends who have come down in favor of prom point out that there are good arguments for letting your kids go, even in the cases where the atmosphere might not be everything a Catholic parent would hope for:

Plus, the kids love it! It’s nice for them to have an opportunity to get dressed up, go to fancy dinners, bond with friends and celebrate the end of the school year.

I do love the idea of the more traditional proms like the one a local Christian homeschool group puts on: It’s hosted by the parents, the kids are required to take dance lessons before they attend, there’s no music with immoral messages, and everyone has a dance card, so nobody feels left out. That kind of setup carries all the traditional benefits of the annual prom: Kids get to take steps toward adult behavior, but they do so within clear boundaries set by their parents.

But what would I do if one of my daughters were asked to go to one of the public high school proms like the one I saw at the hotel that night? It would depend on her temperament, her date’s character, and a host of other factors, but the short answer is that I just don’t know. Again, I’m glad I have about 12 years to think about it. For those of you with high-school-aged kids, what do you think about prom? Do you let your kids go?