A helicopter to the prom?

As the end of the school year approaches and primary pupils begin the transition to secondary school, parents are coming under increasing pressure to fork out for expensive events to mark this important milestone for youngsters.  Workingmums.co.uk looks at ways to avoid shelling out a small fortune. 

As the end of the school year approaches and primary pupils begin the transition to secondary school, parents are coming under pressure to fork out for expensive events to mark this important milestone for youngsters.  Workingmums.co.uk looks at ways to avoid shelling out a small fortune. 

Expensive celebrations
The end of year rites of passage come at an expensive time for working parents.  Already, you will be mentally calculating how much the school uniform for secondary school is going to set you back within the next couple of months.  More expense beckons for childcare over the summer holidays – childminders and summer camps will be needed if no relatives are available to help share the burden.  And spending money for holidays abroad or in Britain also has to be factored into the summertime household budget.  So, when your child asks you to splash out on a limo or an expensive outfit for a prom or disco to mark the end of primary school, you are loathe to agree to the cost.  But then peer pressure kicks in and you don’t want your child to be the only one left out of the celebrations.

What’s sensible and what’s not
One parent has been stopped from sending their primary school pupil by helicopter to an end-of-year prom.  East Renfrewshire Council refused the request to land the helicopter in the grounds of a Scottish primary school on health and safety grounds.  George Barbour,  a spokesman for East Renfrewshire Council, said: ”We refused that request because the school would have had to spend time cordoning off areas to keep children safe.  Their time is better spent teaching the children.  We have had parents wanting to drop their children off in limos and even a Ferrari, all sorts of vehicles.  Generally we would try to accommodate as much as we can, recognising that this is a big important event in the children’s and the parents’ lives.  The helicopter request was maybe just a wee bit over the top.”
But limos and proms or discos – previously deemed an ‘over-the-top’ approach – are becoming more and more commonplace.  Hiring a limo for eight children can start at around £125, and if you add in a beauty therapist to do girls’ nails and make-up, the cost can shoot up to beyond £200. Sharing the cost with other parents will bring the price down, but on top of the limo hire there are the costly outfits and accessories to pay for if your children want to ’go in style’.  

Enforced sexuality at a young age
Many parents and family campaigners have voiced their worries about attempts to sexualise youngsters at an early age.  Many children at primary school come under pressure to ‘take a date’ to the end-of-school disco, but feel awkward about it.  This is the time to tell your child they don’t have to do the same thing as their classmates.  If they feel embarrassed about taking a date, tell them they are much too young to be worrying about being a wallflower – emphasize that it’s okay to go with a bunch of mates.  Importantly, tell other parents what you have done and they will probably take your cue and say the same thing to their youngsters.  Offer to invite a few round for tea that night and then take them in your car to the celebration - that will get round the limo cost and will make sure they don’t arrive on their own.

Cutting down on the price
”Children and young people are often desperate for the latest fads and fashion items, whether it’s the latest gadgets or in this case, the school prom,” says Jane Windle-Hartshorn, from Parentline Plus.  ”No doubt they will want mum and dad to pay for -often pretty expensive – clothes and accessories and won’t stop asking until they get it.  It can feel good to spoil your child with expensive gifts but cost is a great consideration for most parents, as is keeping limitations on how much you treat your children, so how do you manage your child’s demands and expectations? Be assured that other parents are struggling with pester power too.  You certainly are not the only one who can’t afford everything on the wish list.”
* Don’t feel guilty about having a bottomless purse.  It helps to be calmly honest and explain what you think is value for money and what is affordable.
* When you say ‘no’, mean it.  If your kids know that you will eventually cave in they will keep trying.
* Explain why you’re saying ‘no’.  But be firm and don’t get caught in the trap of haggling if your child has an answer for everything.
* If the outfit means a lot to them, perhaps there is a compromise.  If they have a Saturday job or a paper round, you could offer to pay half and they pay the rest.  This would be a good lesson in incentive and money management for them.
* Even if you say ‘no’, try to show your child you understand how they feel.  Sometimes as parents we can forget how important an item is to a child, so if it’s a ‘no’, try not to be flippant with their wants and feelings.
* Agree tactics with your partner or ex-partner beforehand.

Alternatives
Cutting down on cost is possible.  Are your nifty with a needle or do you have a relative who’s good at sewing and would love to be involved in your daughter’s big night? Ditch the beauty therapist idea for girls and, instead,  offer to paint your daughter’s nails and style her hair.  Get dad to dress up in his suit and drive her to the prom. It would be a memorable family way to mark leaving primary school – and cheap.
Suggest other events to mark the end of term if there is no prom/disco.  What about a mass autograph signing session? Suggest to other parents their child takes in an autograph book on the last day and asks every classmate to sign their name, draw a silly picture and exchange email addresses if they want to keep in touch.
A big picnic in the park is a good idea.  Again, this is something you will have to suggest to other parents beforehand to make sure everyone is in the loop.  Choosing the food will be fun – for once let the children have exactly what they want .  They might surprise you and be sensible by plumping for brown bread sandwiches as well as sugary treats. Don’t forget a camera.  Later, get your child to email photos to each classmate of the day they left primary school for good.  Check the weather forecast.  If it’s going to be awful, have a back-up plan for an outing to a pizza restaurant instead.
Bowling might be a good experience for the whole class – see if there are discounts available for groups. Be aware you might have to book up well in advance.  
Events don’t have to revolve around the whole class.  If your child is content to mark the last day by coming home with you just like any other day, let them do that.  It’s important to sound them out and to see what they want rather than automatically assuming they will want to have a wild time with classmates.   

 





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