Set boundaries and rules, then let them have fun
Monday, September 22, 2008
Then you open the door this Halloween, some of the trick-or-treaters might be as tall as you are. Although we may think of it as a children’s holiday, many tweens and teens still enjoy trick-or-treating on Halloween because it gives them a chance to be a kid again for an evening.
While some parents have just said no to their older kids going out, many families have found that prolonging childhood for another night can be a good thing.
If your middle or high schooler wants to head out, here are some guidelines to keep in mind:
1. Make it a group. Bruce Gomez, clinical director of Psychealth and in private practice in Evanston, recommends tweens and teens go out in a group until the end of trick-or-treating, stay in well-lit areas, never go into alleys, backyards and fields and never to go into a stranger’s home or car.
Last year, Marijean Sahyouni’s older boys, Sam, 16, and Ben, 14, went trick-or-treating. "They wait until it is dark and they do not dress in costume, but will wear black and maybe a mask. For them it is all about the candy. They go as a group and I have to know who they are going with," says the Skokie mom of four. Jeanie Lichty, from Elmhurst, has similar views. "My daughter, Alexa, is 16, and my son, Jake, 13. Both still like to trick-or-treat. My daughter goes with friends as a group and this year I’m sure I won’t be tagging along with my son."
2. Offer to help them think of a costume or fun mask. Joining the fun instead of rolling your eyes is a good technique. Julene Fletcher, a Villa Park mom to three, says her youngest, even at 17, has always enjoyed trick-or-treating with friends. "A few years back he and his friends painted their bodies, each one a different "Skittles" color, and then they painted a big white S on their chests. The neighbors seemed to enjoy it. As long as they wear a costume, no one seems to mind."
3. Set the parameters. Tell your trick-or-treater they must adhere to the community’s designated trick-or-treating hours. If your school has not provided that information, contact your local government office. In addition to a curfew, parents often decide the area the older ones are allowed to visit. Sahyouni requires her boys to be home by 8 p.m. and that they stay in their neighborhood or a friend’s neighborhood that she approves. Remind them that any vandalism could lead to a trip to the police station.
4. Stay in touch. Encourage your older child to call or text at least once to check in. If they don’t have a cell phone, let them use yours. "Also, inform the child to trust their feelings and judgment. If something, or anyone, feels or appears ‘too scary,’ move on to the next house and stay within your group for safety and support," Gomez says.
5. Send them out with a laugh and a kiss. While you may still think the idea of tweens and teens trick-or-treating is crazy, in the spirit of choosing your battles, this one is minor. Peggy Hirt, mother of four in LaGrange, says she never dreamed her kids would trick-or-treat into their high school years. "I protested at first, but my husband reminded me that we have really good kids and if they wanted to go trick-or-treating on Halloween, it isn’t such a big deal. I agreed."
Letitia Suk is a writer, speaker and life coach living in Evanston with her husband, Tom. They are the parents of four grown children.