Expert advice on how to help you and your daughter move past a bad social situation, in which feelings were hurt and poor decisions were made.

Credit: iStockphoto

Broken Promises & Hurt Feelings

Q. My 17-year-old daughter and her classmate had an arrangement to attend prom together "as friends." However, two weeks before the dance he began seeing another classmate of theirs. He picked my daughter up on prom night, but that was the most interaction they had all evening, she said. He barely talked to her, and spent the entire prom laughing and dancing with his girlfriend.

Upon my daughter's return home, I was horrified to learn that he had left her at prom while he drove off to attend a party with his girlfriend. My daughter sat up that night crying, as I tried to comfort her. Should she confront him about his actions, and if so, what should she say? As her concerned parent, should I inform his parents of his irresponsible and rude behavior toward my daughter, and if so, how?

A. There is no obvious resolution to this unfortunate situation. There are all sorts of options which you and your daughter can explore. Before deciding how to proceed, however, wait until your daughter is no longer emotional. Also, resist coaching her to a resolution until you yourself are thinking clearly.

Parents' Reaction

The job of parents is to protect children, physically and emotionally. This young man violated your daughter's emotional well-being. It was an insult for him to ignore your daughter once they arrived at the prom and unthinkable of him to leave her, going off to another party with the other girl.

It's a normal response to want to tell him off and even go to his parents. You might be thinking, "I'll tell them a thing or two. He can't get by with treating my daughter this way. He owes my daughter an apology and his parents need to know the lousy way he treated her." While all of this is true, doing so might make the situation at school with these classmates even worse.

How does your daughter wish the evening had gone? That he had set aside his feelings for this other girl and engaged in a good "friendly" time with your daughter? Of course you do. This young man did not have the maturity to behave in this manner. He didn't want to un-invite her so he took her and then focused his attention on the other girl. Up until the day of the prom, he was probably hoping that your daughter would decline the invitation, pick up with someone else once at the prom, or at least have some fun at the prom with the others there.

Suggestions & Scenarios

Once your daughter sets her emotions aside, ask her, "What could you have done?"

  • Decline the invitation so that he could go with his newly identified girlfriend.
  • Find others to enjoy the evening with.
  • Go to him at the dance and say, "Let's dance, and remember I'm your date. I'm willing to share you for the evening but I don't want to be completely ignored."
  • Find a boy who is there alone and dance with him.

Once she's problem solved through those scenarios, ask her what she would like to do now.

  • Tell the young man what a miserable evening she had.
  • Tell the girlfriend as well -- after all she was a full participant in the circumstances too.
  • Let him know that common etiquette dictates that if you invite someone to prom that you don't leave her for another, no matter the personal circumstances involved.
  • Ask for an apology.
  • Do nothing -- drop it.
  • Never go to a prom again.
  • Have you speak with his parents, on her behalf.

Next Steps

If she decides to confront all parties involved and air her feelings, it's important that she not swear at them or call them ugly names. She simply needs to tell them how she felt, what she had expected of him, and how he should handle himself in the future if a similar situation arises. She can also quote basic courtesy and ask for an apology.

You can talk to the parents if she and you together deem it necessary and appropriate in order to put the situation to rest for your daughter's sake.

It's also best if both of you can have these conversations face-to-face rather than via text messaging or e-mail. Too much communication can be lost or implied through these mediums.

Moving On

Then it's time for both of you to drop the subject and move on. There's no need to keep bringing it up and rehashing what happened.

If she decides to do nothing, drop this friend and his girlfriend, and find other friends, doing so would be fine too. This young man and his girlfriend may not be worth using up any more of her emotional energy. She'll likely opt to go to the prom next year and have a great time!

Jan Faull, MEd, is a veteran parent educator and the author of four parenting books, including Darn Good Advice -- Baby and Darn Good Advice -- Parenting. She writes a biweekly parenting advice column for this site and a weekly parenting advice column in the Seattle Times. Jan Faull is the mother of three grown children and lives in the Seattle area.

Originally published on, February 2007.

All content here, including advice from doctors and other health professionals, should be considered as opinion only. Always seek the direct advice of your own doctor in connection with any questions or issues you may have regarding your own health or the health of others.

Healthy Kid