Graduation celebrations sure have changed since I was in high school. I’m a little nervous about allowing my teenager to go. What’s your perspective on this?


Your concerns are understandable. Parents these days have a number of good reasons to be worried about what goes on during and after a high school grad event – everything from immodest dress to sexually suggestive dancing to potential drug and alcohol abuse. Most moms and dads had very different experiences during their high school years, and as a result they have few points of reference from which to evaluate the current situation. It can be a real challenge to guide your teen wisely through the moral ambiguities surrounding social events of this nature. In spite of this, we’d like to urge you to resist the knee-jerk temptation to just say "no" to the whole thing.

Talk with your teen

You can defuse some of the danger by confronting the issue head-on. Take an intentional approach. If your teenager is looking forward to attending the grad, see if you can get her to think out loud with you about the purpose of this "ultimate" night of fun and romance. Why does she want to go so badly? What does she expect to happen when she gets there? Help her to see that a great deal depends on her reasons for going.

There are, of course, any number of bad reasons for attending a grad event, most of which are heavily promoted in popular teen magazines. They include things like gaining acceptance from the peer group, acquiring or preserving a dating relationship, flirting with members of the opposite sex or impressing others with clothes and limousines that come with a hefty price tag.

Are there any positive reasons for going to the grad? We’d suggest that the answer is a resounding yes. Your teenager can 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. If she’s a strong believer, it can even be an opportunity to stand out in the crowd as a winsome and attractive witness for Christ.

Helping your teen to make the right choices

The important thing, then, is to get a handle on your teen’s hopes and expectations. Once you understand what she’s after, you can approve, caution or redirect her desires based on what you know about her personal strengths and weaknesses. The rules and limits you set should flow directly from the perceived purpose of the evening. For instance, if "fun" is her one overriding goal, she may find it hard to say "no" to anything that sounds "fun," even if it’s dangerous or foolish. On the other hand, if she’s genuinely interested in representing Jesus, certain standards of modesty – including those related to necklines and hemlines – will become obvious considerations. It’s extremely important that these standards and limitations arise out of the desires of her own heart. When teenagers own their boundaries and feel responsible for them, they hold up much better under pressure. Conversely, an external limit imposed by Mom or Dad won’t stand up as well in the face of the world’s values.

In summary, gaining a sense of your child’s heart, intentions and personal goals regarding grad night can either confirm your anxieties or bolster your confidence. Either way, you'll have more solid information on which to base your ultimate decision. If you choose to let her attend the grad, you can enhance the experience by getting excited and looking forward to the event with her. If, on the other hand, this process of investigation leaves you feeling uncomfortable about grad night, you can explore alternative activities together – many of which are far less expensive.

© 1999 Focus on the Family. All rights reserved. Used by permission. 

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