Surviving the First Dance
Attending the first school dance can be an exciting experience for a tween girl, but it can also be a bit nerve-wracking. What will she wear? Who will she dance with? What if she feels awkward and alone?
Look at a school dance as an opportunity for your daughter to stretch and grow, suggests Dr. Sylvia Rimm, a child psychologist and author of See Jane Win For Girls: A Smart Girl's Guide to Success. "Encouraging your daughter to step outside her comfort zone and take reasonable risks is a very good thing." Here are some of Dr. Rimm's nuggets of wisdom:
Do some asking around.
As a parent, your first step is to find out what will be going on at the dance," says Dr. Rimm. "Don't rely on talking to parents with older children. The dynamics between kids can be very different from class to class." Contact the school and get informed about where the dance will be held and who will be chaperoning, and talk to teachers who seem to have a handle on any social issues going on in your daughter's class.
Encourage her to go -- if only to the first dance.
Once you've checked out the event, Dr. Rimm suggests giving an ambivalent girl a firm push to go to the first big social event. "Let your daughter know that you really think she needs to go to the first dance, just to try it. She'll probably have a lot of fun, after all. Still, tell her that if she goes to the first one and it's not her thing, you won't push her the next time if she doesn't want to go."
To chaperone or not to chaperone?
Want to keep any eye on the goings-on? It's perfectly fine to chaperone, says Dr. Rimm, as long as you only do it once in a blue moon. "You definitely should not chaperone every school event. At this age, it's important to give your child some time when Mom isn't watching her every social move," says Dr. Rimm. "This is as true for the shy girl as for the girl who is already telling you to back off and give her breathing room."
Have another talk about peer pressure.
Let's face it: At this age, the kids with popularity and status are often on a faster track socially. "It's really important to reinforce the message that there isn't any hurry," says Dr. Rimm. "This is a time when kids can feel a lot of pressure to do things that are rebellious and inappropriate. There can also be pressure to be labeled as being part of a group or as someone's girlfriend." Point out that everyone—even adults—feels peer pressure sometimes. "Your daughter needs to be strong enough to stand her ground when she's uncomfortable in any situation," insists Dr. Rimm. "This skill will become even more important in high school and into adulthood."
Come up with a plan.
Come up with a plan. "If your daughter is nervous, suggest that she arrive with two or three friends she can count on," says Dr. Rimm. "If there's something specific that worries her, talk about it and problem solve together." Role playing different "what if" scenarios can give tweens just the confidence boost they need. "It's also perfectly fine to give your daughter permission to call you if she isn't having a good time. If she has given it a chance and decides that she's just not having fun or isn't ready for it, then recognize that. The point is that she tried it before making her choice." And just knowing that Mom has her back can give a girl just the confidence boost she needs.