Can you afford prom night? Do you want to?

With prom season on the horizon, the New York Times reports that -- at least on Long Island, which may not be an indicator of anything -- the market for prom-related items like clothes, tanning, hair, nails, tickets and transportation isn't flinching at the recession. While sales figures seem to be in line with 2008, the paper also notes that there are, "plenty of signs that spending on these events is causing families financial strain."

As a parent and a children's therapist, all of this inclines me to lose my lunch. It also makes me wonder whether these parents or teenagers have any idea how thoroughly they've been had.

The truth is that if you haven't sorted out your own values then it's probably too late by prom time. Parents who still worry about having the "right" clothes themselves, who believe that being a good parent means giving your child the "best ____" (fill in the blank - Christmas, kindergarten, summer camp, wardrobe, college) don't have a lot to contribute when it comes to helping kids deal with a culture that has been hoodwinked by competition and possessions.

Like so many things in life, a light touch and a good attitude may make more of a difference to your child's happiness than how deep your pockets happen to be.