Prom is in the air, which causes excitement as well as angst for the parents of teenagers who dream of a dress-up night to remember. For LDS moms of daughters, the drama goes way beyond finding that elusive gown with sleeves.

I’ve been troubled by the trend in our area for girls to go alone to prom — to ask each other with decorated signs on school lockers and to attend in groups of four or five or more.

Alternatively, I’ve also been surprised to learn that those who go with boys often make reservations at a restaurant before the dance and reservations at a hotel afterward. Prom dates appear to be an all-night adventure where sexual escapades are an acceptable part of the planning.

The evolution makes me want to escape prom weekend and take my teenage girls to Disneyland so I can remind them that they still, really, are children.

Realistically, though, prom is a great and awful opportunity to teach teens applicable lessons from almost every page of the new “For the Strength of Youth” pamphlet.

My oldest daughter has been surprised at my adamant disapproval of girl groups going to prom. In her eyes, the girls are simply creating an alternative to sitting at home while everyone else has a date.

I don’t want to deny girls the opportunity to attend, but it’s the attitude I have a problem with. Encouraging girls to consider a companion irrelevant is like a seedling of a developing opinion that marriage is also meaningless. It shows that girls’ priorities of hair-do's, glitter spray and gowns are much more important than a social experience cultivating manners and opportunities to be your best self, not just for the pictures but for the person leading you on the dance floor.

Innate to maturation is denying yourself of over-indulgence in self-gratification, and prom is the perfect opportunity at a critical stage of life to take a deep breath and admit, “This is not all about me.”

A girl should choose her prom dress based not only on how she feels when she wears it, but how her date might feel standing next to her. Her appearance should enable the boy to feel pride in parading her beauty on the dance floor and in pictures that he’ll probably show his grandma. He shouldn’t have to spend his evening keeping his eyes to the ceiling while slippery, revealing gowns are readjusted all night long.

Likewise, a boy should plan the evening without being overcome with the expense and unsubstantiated expectations. He should make thoughtful choices that appeal to his date’s interests, not what might impress the masses or fulfill erroneous obligations.

Both the boy and the girl should make the other a priority and re-evaluate the comfort level of their companion throughout the evening. It means not deserting your date to oogle every other girl’s gown. It means not forcing a food choice at dinner, expecting inappropriate affection or inflicting guilt. It means dancing with distance between your bodies.

Prom can be a great night for memory making. The event can springboard a person into a higher level of maturity and understanding of vital human relationships. It can be unifying for your classmates and increase pride in what you represent to each other and to your community.

Prom can be so much more than a gown, a tux, roses and prime rib. It’s about a boy and girl enjoying an evening of becoming better than they were the day before. It’s about transforming physically with fancy clothes and transforming emotionally by socializing with boundaries and thoughtful gestures.

Prom is not an archaic tradition, nor has it become a den of iniquity to be avoided entirely. Somewhere in between, prom can be a milestone in a teen’s life that, with parents’ assistance, they should prepare for, enjoy appropriately and look back on with pride.

Stacie Lloyd Duce is a columnist and magazine editor featured regularly in several Montana and Utah publications. Her columns appear Thursdays on EMAIL: [email protected]