With Halloween quickly approaching, some parents may be feeling that the virtue of this holiday—a day where kids have historically been able to collectively express creativity through costumes, games and their own imagination—has taken a darker turn in the passing years. Both the news and personal experiences have made some parents increasingly aware of the dangers that can arise from their children going door to door at night, speaking with and accepting treats from strangers, sometimes without parental supervision.
While ultimately the decision to allow trick-or-treating will vary depending on personal beliefs and occurrences, if you still consider trick-or-treating an invaluable part of the Halloween experience, there are some precautions you can take to help eliminate any anxiety you might have.
Children under 12: Generally, it’s a good idea for an adult to accompany your children if they are under 12 years old. Of course, this isn’t a concrete rule—a child’s need for supervision will vary depending on their maturity and ability to make safe decisions and practice critical thinking. Personal relationships with neighbors may affect parent’s confidence in this as well—knowing who your young children will be speaking with can certainly give peace of mind-- but if you have any doubts, better to offer supervision than worry about their safety.
Buddy System: For children and teenagers not being supervised by an adult, the buddy system is a great way to promote security. There is safety in numbers! It’s also a good idea to practice staying in well-lit areas that are familiar to both you and your kids. In order to ensure your children understand these parameters, spend an afternoon after school one day walking the neighborhood streets that you’re comfortable with them exploring so that they understand your guidelines before the day comes around.
Phones: You might get frustrated when your child is constantly pining for their phone, but days like Halloween are the exact types of situations that those phones should be put to proper use. Not only do cell phones allow your children to call you with updates (or vice versa), most cell phone services also offer tracking technology, so you can find your child if you need to. There are a number of apps that make locating your children’s whereabouts easy, which is a great resource if you’re concerned.
Safe Walking: Remind your children to be careful and stay attentive when crossing the street—this also means not looking down at their phones as they cross. For younger children, consider using reflective tape on their costumes and bags, flashlights, or layer on the glow sticks as a fun alternative. If you’re located in an urban neighborhood or are willing to drive to one for your children to trick-or-treat, volunteer crossing guards will often be available to help ensure safe crossings.
Costumes: It may go without saying, but some costumes can pose as a hazard, especially for younger children. Consider using face paint, instead of masks, so that they can see properly. Make sure that costumes fit properly and to not have pieces that drag on the ground to avoid tripping.
Alternative Locations: Sometimes your neighborhood isn’t ideal for trick-or-treating, whether your concern is safety, you live in a rural area, or your neighbors just don’t share your same Halloween spirit. Alternative locations can include driving to more kid-centric urban neighborhoods, malls, community facilities, and churches. Different establishments in many towns often host “trunk-or-treating”, which usually offer a trick-or-treat experience for you children along with additional Halloween festivities in a controlled environment.
Check Their Candy: No matter where your children get their candy from, you should always check it before they consume it. All candy should be sealed in their original wrappers, and check for any indication of tampering (i.e. holes). Homemade treats should not be consumed, unless you personally know and have a trusting relationship with the provider.
While it’s certainly smart to think ahead and outline a game plan for your children before they go trick-or-treating, try not to let anxiety or worry dictate your view of what is intended to be a fun Halloween event. If you still value this experience and want your children to delight in the same excitement as you did when you were a kid, just discuss your concerns with them and make sure they understand your conditions. No matter how you celebrate the Holiday—whether you carve pumpkins, trick-or-treat, or spend the evening indoors watching spooky movies, remember to breath and enjoy the day!