Teens and Halloween
Teens want to be taken seriously. They look for mutual respect and truly believe they are well on the road to adulthood – except when it comes time to don costumes and go trick-or-treating. Suddenly, the most mature of teens and tweens no longer care as much about being grown up as they do celebrating this festive day.
The subject of teen trick-or-treating tends to garner diverse opinions. There are many who believe older children should not actively participate in trick-or-treating for fear they'll be overly mischievous. Teen trick-or-treaters are often unfairly stereotyped as being demonstrative, destructive, pumpkin-smashing celebrants.
Just Like a Kid Again
In reality, most kids between the ages of 12 and 17 look forward to Halloween because the holiday provides the opportunity to act like a kid instead of an impending adult or serious student.
"Taking away the opportunity to creatively express themselves can be stifling for children," says Barbara Mueller of Madison, Wis., a family therapist. "I work with many teens who feel the pressure to always be mature. Giving them an outlet at Halloween is a great way to alleviate some of those pressures."
Safety FirstAllowing your teen some safe and constructive guidelines makes it possible for him to partake in all the ghoulish festivities of the season.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, from 1975 to 1996, an average of four children ages 5 to 14 were struck and killed by cars on Halloween night. These tragic accidents usually occurred as a result of children forgetting to practice simple safety tips.
Make sure your teen has a predetermined route and advises you of the area he and his friends are planning to travel in. He should stick to neighborhoods or buildings he's familiar with and knows how to get home from. Teens should know to avoid dark alleys, cutting through yards, crossing in between parked cars and entering a home they would normally not go into.
The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission warns that all trick-or-treaters examine treats for potential tampering. Sending him out with a full stomach reduces the chances his hunger pangs will tempt him to snack on treats before you've both sorted through them at home.
Instruct all children not to call on a house that is dark or a front door with an obstructed view from the street. Although it may seem like an unrealistic scene from a 1980s horror movie, you never know who's hiding in the bushes or doorway. If your teen can't see the front door from the sidewalk, he can't see what's waiting for him and shouldn't approach the house.
Teen trick-or-treaters should always travel in groups and carry cell phones or two-way radios. Make sure the batteries in the phones or radios are completely charged before leaving the house. Your teen ghoul or goblin should also carry a flashlight in addition to the popular glow sticks that kids love to use to light their way in the night.
One of the most important factors to keep in mind is that Halloween candy muggers and other potentially dangerous individuals are not gender biased. According to Michigan State Police Officer Mike Novak, boys are the target of random Halloween crimes just as much as girls are. Surprisingly in some areas, boys have a higher risk, because many parents fear for the safety of girls and don't allow them out as late as boys.
In addition to realizing that all children are susceptible to Halloween crimes, Novak works to educate parents on some hurtful and sometimes harmful acts teen revelers often fall victim to. "Candy muggings, prank beatings and being the target of paint ball, egg or tomato ammunition are not uncommon," he says. Novak urges trick-or-treaters of all ages to exercise care and stay alert when going out to hunt for goodies.
Halloween may provide the perfect opportunity to utilize the solid set of ideals and principles you've worked hard to instill in your child. Remind him to listen to his inner common sense when celebrating Halloween. He knows your expectations, and chances are, if he has to question participating in a Halloween act, it's probably something you wouldn't want him to be a part of. Relying on his conscience will not only keep him safe, it will promote his ability to independently make good decisions.
If he's feeling pressured by peers to commit hurtful pranks or to stray from the predetermined course, urge him to rely on his instincts and find a safe way out of the situation. If he's unable to talk his fellow tricksters out of a dangerous act, he can place a discreet call home for some reassurance.
Novak cautions parents that it is important to remind your teen that even practical jokes may be considered a crime. Vandalizing pumpkins or mailboxes may seem harmless and tempting, but these acts can lead to a visit to the local police station.
If your teen is looking for an alternative to the door-to-door candy pilgrimage, consider hosting a teen haunted Halloween party. Turning over the basement or garage to transform the space into a creepy party place gives teens a safe place to show off their costumes and celebrate Halloween. If you're looking to send invitations or need additional theme ideas, www.pastrywiz.com has some terrific tips to host Halloween parties with a grown-up flair.
Organize a teen-only neighborhood scavenger hunt that includes finish line prizes donated by the participant's parents, such as movie tickets or video rental gift cards. Another way for teens to get into the Halloween spirit is to suggest they dress up and pass out candy to youngsters. Getting into character or creating the most haunted house on the block offers creative outlets and still celebrates your teen's youthful perception of the season.
If your teen shows an interest in Halloween, Mueller advises that as long as he follows commonsense safety tips and demonstrates a desire to be ghoulishly carefree, he's not too old to hit the trick-or-treat trail. "Trick-or-treating is a wonderful way for children to release some of the pressures of school and adolescence," she says.