Help! My Daughter Hasn’t Been Asked to Prom
By Mary Dixon Lebeau
Q: My daughter hasn’t been asked to prom yet, and she is driving me nuts.
A: Oh, I can feel your pain. I’m not sure why we (as females) put such an emphasis on one night, and I would like to laugh it off, but I have to confess – when my first child was born and the doctor announced, “It’s a girl!” I felt fear. I cried to my sister that I wasn’t capable of raising a girl. “What if no one asks her to the prom?” I wailed. Yes, Courtney was just hours old, but I was already fearing that rite of passage.
My sister, the mom of four boys, put me in my place. “Of course she’ll be asked. They asked us; they’ll ask anyone.” And I moved on to other pressing issues, like how I was going to pay for a wedding.
But the truth is, boys don’t ask everyone – and even those who used to go “as friends” may be dissuaded from doing that today, considering the romantic pressures and budget-breaking costs that are often associated with prom today. As adults, we realize that this one night won’t make or break our daughter’s life, but we do have to be sympathetic. “It’s as easy as a parent looking at the big picture to see that, whether your daughter attends one dance or not, it won’t prove to be life changing in the scope of things,” says Debra Gano, executive director of the Heartlight Girls Project, which teaches self-esteem principles to girls.
“Yet to her, this crisis may seem like everything, especially with the added influence of teenage hormones and peer pressure,” Gano adds. “So soothing her wounds by telling her, ‘It’s no big deal’ probably won’t help, and may even make you look uncaring, because to her, it IS everything.”
So how can you assure your daughter, without making the prom seem like more than it is? Gano suggests talking to her about her feelings and identifying her main source of disappointment. “Does she feel she’s missing fun? Is she worried what others will think that she wasn’t invited? Does she feel it’s due to some flaw within her that she wasn’t asked?” Gano asks. She suggests using such questions to open a conversation, allowing your daughter to share her feelings without dwelling on negativity.
Dr. Aaron Cooper, clinical psychologist with The Family Institute at Northwestern University, puts it this way, “Parents beware: acknowledge your daughter’s disappointment, but don’t mirror and thereby enhance her feelings by conveying your own sense of disappointment. This is a case where pain reflected is pain augmented.”
“Our kids need us to bring balance and perspective to the events of their lives,” he adds. “Some of the greatest growth in character and resilience comes with encounters with disappointment. Don’t feel the need to shield kids from these growing pains.”