School events & situations

6 Common Pitfalls at the School Dance, and How to Avoid Them

By Erica Patino

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Not all tweens and teens with learning and attention issues struggle with social skills. But for those who do, a school dance can be tricky territory. Here are common pitfalls and tips for avoiding them.

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Close-up of a two teenagers at a school dance taking a selfie with their phone
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Being Tempted by Troublemakers

Warn your child that some kids do risky and inappropriate things at a dance. This can include drinking or doing drugs out of view of supervising adults. Talk to your child about what to do if this happens. Remind him not to join the “cool” kids if he’s tempted by a dare, boredom or the desire to be accepted.

Group of teen girls talking and listening to the DJ at a school dance
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Being Turned Down for a Dance

Many kids avoid asking someone to dance for fear of being turned down. Help your child prepare for this situation. Encourage her not to take being turned down personally. Suggest that she just invite someone else to dance, and help her brainstorm about friends she could ask. “What about Jake? You guys have fun in band together. Maybe he’d be a good person to ask to dance.”

Back view of a crowd of teens at a dance
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Feeling Overwhelmed

A school dance can be a lot to process, especially for kids with sensory processing issues. The music is usually loud, and there may be lots of bright colors and strobe lights. If your child is hyperactive or sensitive to stimulation, talk to her about how she can avoid feeling overwhelmed. She might plan to retreat to the restroom or hallway, or huddle with friends, when she needs a break.

Close up of a teen boy holding out his hand to a girl at a school dance
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Not Knowing How to Ask for a Dance

Asking another child to dance can feel awkward. It probably isn’t something your child does every day! You can help your child by practicing what to say and do, ahead of time. Ask your child “Would you like to dance?” and hold out your hand. Practice taking her hand and walking out onto a dance floor so your child will know what to do if she’s asked to dance. Remind her to smile and make eye contact.

Group of teenagers dancing
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Not Knowing How to Dance Appropriately

Kids might not understand how close to dance with a partner or where to put their hands on a partner’s body. In some high schools, kids might be “grinding” in a sexually suggestive way instead of dancing. Practice dancing with your child, including how far apart to stand and where the hands should go. She can also watch YouTube videos to try new dance moves, or invite friends over so they can practice dance moves before the day of the school dance.

Teenagers walking into a school dance with their dates
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Treating a Date Poorly

Sometimes kids ask someone to a dance so they have another person to go with, but then ignore their date once there. Or they get so excited at a dance that they forget to pay attention to their date. Remind your child that it’s not nice to “ditch” a date. While she doesn’t need to spend the whole evening with him, it would be good to talk awhile and dance at least a few songs with him.

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About the Author

Portrait of Erica Patino

Erica Patino is an online writer and editor who specializes in health and wellness content.

Reviewed by

Portrait of Sheldon Horowitz

Sheldon H. Horowitz, Ed.D., is senior director of learning resources and research at the National Center for Learning Disabilities.

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