It might seem like a harmless, traditional, high school dance, but homecoming (HoCo) carries nearly as many teenage-social pressures as prom. With the stresses of finding a date, choosing an outfit, organizing the night, and avoiding explicit dangers, most teens need their parents to be involved in the entire HoCo process.
Even if your teen doesn’t ask you for help directly, you can provide much-needed support and guidance during this socially trying time. The key is to walk the line between instructive and intrusive, so your teen feels grown-up for HoCo — but doesn’t act too much like a grown up.
Asking a Date
When you were in high school, it was nerve-wracking enough to get your crush alone and ask a simple yes-or-no question. Now, most teens are under pressure to ask their dates to homecoming in exciting and extreme ways. If there isn’t a large, smartphone-wielding crowd, a marching band, an expensive car, and a puppy involved in your teen might think that their HoCo proposal will end in tears.
It isn’t your job to tell your teen who to take to homecoming; if they want to go alone or with a group of friends, that should be just fine. However, if you notice your teen agonizing about the perfect proposal, you should be able to step in with some advice, such as:
- Think about what the date likes most: A “yes” is more likely if the asker shows their commitment. If your teen is asking an artsy person, they might make a pun using a famous artist (“Will you Van Gogh to HoCo with me?”).
- Think about what your teen does with the date: Likely, your teen is already going out or close friends with their potential date. They can turn a shared activity — like playing baseball (“I might strike out, but will you go to HoCo with me?”) — into a proposal idea.
- Think about the theme of the dance: Some themes lend themselves to eye-catching proposals. For example, a jazz age theme might beg for a saxophone player and a Fitzgerald reference (“Will you be the Daisy to my Gatsby at HoCo?”).
- Add a special gift: Flowers are too traditional for modern HoCo proposals. Your teen should offer a present of some sort, like a sweet treat or inexpensive jewelry, no matter what the proposal looks like.
Finding an Outfit
Different schools have different outfit expectations for the homecoming dance. In some schools, HoCo is more of a costume party, and in others, it is an exceedingly formal affair. Before you start shopping, your teen should ask around to determine what other people are wearing — as well as any addenda to the dress code.
Ultimately, HoCo isn’t prom; the fall dance is typically about looking trendy rather than timeless. Even if your teen’s school demands formalwear, you shouldn’t think top hats and glass slippers. You should be able to find stylish suits and Homecoming dresses online that fit the theme, style, and hopes of your teen without breaking the budget.
Planning the Night
If everything is to be perfect, you and your teen need to make a schedule for the day of homecoming. Your teen should have plenty of time to get ready — which might include visiting a salon for hair, makeup, and nails — take pictures with their date and friends, go out for dinner, and arrive at the dance on time. Well in advance of the big night, you should have the requisite appointments and reservations, or you should have the supplies necessary to generate a memorable pre-HoCo at home.
Most teens also attend HoCo after-parties. Before your teen leaves for the dance — even before the date proposal — you should have a talk about the possible dangers of homecoming and what kind of behavior you expect from your teen. Many parents allow older teens to partake in alcohol, as long as they do so with supervision and avoid irresponsible behavior like binging and driving. If you don’t want your teen to drink, you should explain why and make sure your teen has a booze-free place to go after HoCo. You might also broach the issue of sex, especially if your teen is going to the dance with a boy- or girlfriend or sleeping over at someone else’s house. As the parent, it isn’t inappropriate for you to prohibit after-party attendance or sleepovers — but you should always explain your reasoning thoroughly.
At the very least, your teen should always be reachable, either through other adults (like dance chaperones) or their own cellphone. Your teen should know that if you are unable to contact them, you will not hesitate to call the proper authorities. Homecoming is a rite of passage for American teens — but that doesn’t give them an excuse to risk their lives.