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A Parenting Tip For Halloween; How Old Is Too Old?

Oct 24, 2007
Every year the same phenomenon occurs at my front door. Late on Halloween night, usually long after the trail of adorable preschoolers and costumed elementary-age children have come and gone, a group of teens or pre-teens knocks on my door and loudly regales me with "trick-or-treat".

Sometimes in costumes. Most of the time not.

And I have to ask, from a parenting standpoint...what's the point?

Over the years of raising four children, I've seen a lot of cute kids at my door. But I decided early on that the best parenting tip I could give myself during the annual Halloween craze is to put a limit on how old my kids could be and still go trick-or-treating.

Let me assure you, this was not a popular decision in my home! However, I know that as a parent, it's not my job to win popularity contests. I am to lead them into responsible adulthood.

For me, letting my teens and preteens roam the streets on Halloween night just never fit into that job description.

In our home, we decided that sixth grade was the limit. Dressing up in costumes and going door-to-door, begging for candy is for little kids. Period. However, dressing up in costumes is fun, no matter what the age, so my kids were encouraged to find safe alternatives to trick-or-treating. Harvest parties at churches became popular and we took advantage of many of them. Over time, parties cropped up at schools, too, as well as individual friends' homes. We hosted one or two Halloween parties ourselves and they were great fun!

My parenting tip for Halloween has stood the test of time and my kids were never without enjoyable activities. I have taken some slack for this approach, however. Mainly from other parents.

I've listened to the "it's all harmless fun" discussion. "After all" the reasoning goes, "what's wrong with a group of kids hanging out together on a holiday night? Why do you make the assumption they'll get into trouble?"

Good questions. I've known a lot of kids over the years as my children have progressed from tweens to teens. Great kids, mostly. Kids who came from terrific families whose parents were hanging close, guiding and caring.

And isn't the point to keep them that way? Why put great kids in the situation where they have to make difficult decisions concerning their behavior when it's just not necessary? (Don't get me wrong, I know our kids have to learn how to make difficult decisions. It's the appropriateness of this particular setting that I'm questioning. For example, we don't teach our kids to be responsible drinkers by taking them to the local bar and getting them drunk.)

What is there about hanging out in the streets with a group of friends in the dark that is helpful? Or even fun? What behaviors are we edifying in this scenario? Especially when there are excellent alternatives where those same kids can have plenty of fun, hang with their friends and probably still get a ton of candy!

Even setting aside religious and historical issues concerning Halloween, roaming the streets can be dangerous. The smaller children have parents watching over them, but the older kids are relying on themselves. Let's be frank here. They're focusing on each other, not the cars (that can't see them in the dark anyway) or even the other people on the street.

All in all, letting older kids go door-to-door just doesn't add up for me. I think I'll stick with the original parenting tip I listened to all those years ago when I was just starting out. And I offer it to you as food for thought this Halloween season.

After all, the main thing is we do what's right for our kids.
About the Author
Colleen Langenfeld has been parenting for over 26 years and helps other moms enjoy mothering more at http://www.paintedgold.com . Visit her website and grab another parenting tip today.
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