When you create a mental image of Halloween, you might think of young children coming to the door dressed as ninjas and ladybugs, middle school-aged kids trying to squeeze one more year of trick-or-treating out of their childhoods, and high-schoolers going to Halloween parties in scary or provocative costumes. Kids (and adults!) of all ages tend to love the holiday, and it can be a lot of fun for everyone, provided parents take the steps necessary to keep their kids safe. As children get older, there will be less parental supervision and Halloween hijinks might lead to injuries or worse. Here’s your guide to keeping your older child safe and sober this Halloween.
Talk to Your Older Kids About Common Safety Issues
When your kids were younger, you made sure they wore reflective clothing and carried flashlights. You warned them about not entering the homes of strangers and didn’t let them eat homemade goodies that were baked by people you didn’t know. You reminded them to look both ways before crossing the street and didn’t let them wear masks that impeded their vision. You might think that your teen already knows all of this information, so it’s not necessary to remind them.
Do it anyway! Teens often think that they’re invincible and don’t think about whether their costume is going to trip them or cover their eyes. They might think they’re big enough to not get hit by a car, not realizing that wearing a dark costume at night makes them difficult to see. They might walk right into a stranger’s home because they’re caught up in the spirit of the season. In many ways, teens need just as much coaching as younger ones, especially because parents generally don’t accompany teenagers trick-or-treating.
Make Rules About Substance Use on Halloween (and Beyond)
Your teen might be invited to a Halloween party. Bobbing for apples, eating doughnuts off of strings, and having a dance contest are all fun parts of costume parties. If teens are left to their own devices, however, alcohol and party drugs might also be added into the mix.
Talk to your teen in advance about what you expect in terms of drug and alcohol use. It’s best, of course, if you’ve been having these discussions for years. Remind them that they are not allowed to use substances and let them know that you will pick them up, no questions asked, if they’re uncomfortable or if their intended driver has even a sip of alcohol.
In addition, consider hosting the party at your house. If that’s not possible or feasible, call the parents who will be hosting to make sure that they’ll be home and that there won’t be alcohol served.
Set Reasonable Boundaries Based on Your Child’s Age
Just because your kids are teens, that doesn’t mean that they need to have free reign of the town on Halloween. You can certainly set boundaries about where they are allowed to go and what time they must be home. This year, Halloween is on a Tuesday, so there will be school the next day; it’s reasonable to expect that your teen will be home at a fairly early hour.
Talk to your teen about dangerous areas of town, if any. If there are any Halloween events or activities that you don’t approve of going on in your area, let your teen know in advance that they’re not allowed to be there. Also, remind them that the general rules of good behavior apply on Halloween just like any other night; they aren’t allowed to egg houses or cause other mischief due to the date on the calendar.
Take Precautions With Teenage Drivers on Halloween
If your teenager is of driving age, consider suspending those privileges on Halloween after dark. There will be many small children darting into the streets and it’s vitally important that drivers drive very slowly and are aware of what’s happening around them. If your teen has to drive, consider nixing the idea of them transporting friends with them, since a group of teens in a car can be a distraction to a novice driver. Try to make arrangements to drive your teen where they need to be so you don’t have to worry about teenage drivers at all on this night.
If your teen will be going to a party, make sure they know the rules about not getting into a car with an impaired driver behind the wheel. Teens often overestimate their abilities, so they might not realize that a teenager having just one beer can be more severely impacted than an adult having a beer or a glass of wine with dinner. Make it a rule that if there’s any drinking going on, your teen needs to call you for a ride.
Help Your Teen Find Fun, Age-Appropriate Activities
Finally, look for safe activities for your teen. He or she might be happy to go trick-or-treating with a group of younger children as their chaperone. They’re still young enough to dress up and collect candy, and accompanying the neighborhood children might be the perfect way to do this. Handing out candy at your home or at a place of business is another good option for teenagers. Sometimes there will be community activities held at recreation centers or churches for teenagers to dress up and have fun in a safe, supervised atmosphere.
Halloween should be about fun and spookiness, not about drinking or getting into unsafe situations. Talk to your older child or teenager about ways to stay safe while celebrating the magic of All Hallow’s Eve.