Spotlight on Youth: High Schoolers Trick or Treating

Halloween was a couple weeks ago – a reminder for those who already polished off the last fun-sized Kit Kat bar – and there was no shortage of news articles and clips, and Facebook and Next Door posts asking “Should high schoolers be trick or treating?”

At first I appreciated the parents who seemed to care about community sentiment. Then I considered: why should a neighbor or TV news anchor decide if your child has aged out of trick-or-treating? Raising children does take a village, but restricting their enjoyment of a Hallmark Holiday due to your neighbor’s personal feelings isn’t parenting; it’s putting a stranger’s feelings over your child’s.

While some municipalities have age restrictions for the evening’s festivities, there doesn’t seem to be a hard-and-fast law limiting Halloween participation. And really, who among us hasn’t excised the “Mom tax”, the adult’s portion of the night’s haul? I, for one, have enjoyed various “taxed” chocolates in my nightly bowl of ice cream. (Recall that I am pregnant, not that a woman needs an excuse to have ice cream.)

Image result for teens trick or treating
A viral post from Halloween 2019

Who gets to decide on your child’s past-times?

My nephew decided this year that he was too big to trick-or-treat, and asked if he could stay home and pass out candy. His parents approved, and the night came. His mom went out with his two younger brothers, and his dad stayed home with him. After an hour, he grew bored and asked if he could go out. His dad said yes, and out he went! He didn’t have quite the haul of his brothers, but he had a fun time.

It’s a simple story, but one that puts the child and the parents at the forefront of the situation. My brother-in-law didn’t ask a neighbor if his son was too old to go out. Nor did he insist his son put on an elaborate costume. He simply heard his son’s desire to participate and said yes.

I was reminded of a Facebook past I’d read a few years back on my community’s Facebook page. A mom asked her neighbors – friends and strangers alike – “Do you think it’s okay that my daughter and her friends go trick-or-treating unsupervised on Halloween night?”

The question made me sad, and angry on behalf of her daughter. Could she have been gauging community sentiment to ensure her daughter and friends would be welcome? Perhaps. Could she have been new to the community and unaware of any rules? Absolutely.

But the fact remains that she left the answer up to Facebook responders. She took the power away from her teenager and gave it to other people. The authority on her high schoolers trick or treating was hers, but she gave it away.

How could she have handled this better?

Parents of teenagers should regularly have conversations with their children about appropriate behavior, perceptions/stereotypes others may assign to them, and how they (the teens) wish to be perceived by others.

How might that sound on Halloween?

  • I love the costume you’re putting together for the party. Do you think you’ll go trick-or-treating as well?
  • There might be some folks who don’t like seeing teenagers at their door. You may want to spend some time considering how you’ll respond to those who refuse to give you candy. My suggestion is a polite smile and “have a good night”.
  • Let’s talk about a door-knocking curfew. I remember last year I got spooked when high schoolers trick or treating knocked at 8:30, so how about you stop at eight. You and your friends can have the basement after that, if you’d like.

How might that sound throughout the year?

  • I love that you like hanging out with your friends at the playground. I remember taking you when you were just a little kid. But don’t be a bully…share the swings with the little kids.
  • There was another post on Next Door about a group of teenagers loitering at the corner. I want you to know that I responded to the poster saying anyone of any age is allowed to hang out there. I know you’re not doing anything wrong, but if someone gives you a hard time, please walk away and we will handle it together.
  • Have fun at the football game tonight, but remember that we talked about you taunting the other team’s fans. That’s poor sportsmanship and you weren’t raised to be mean. I trust you won’t behave that way tonight.

Those are examples of a parent being authentic with their teen.
Don’t be a jerk.
Let me help you.
You slipped up recently, but I trust you to not do it again because we discussed it, rationally and respectfully.

THAT is how we should be parenting, mentoring, and guiding youth. With love and mutual respect. We should be asking questions, assessing their feelings, and proving to them that we’ve made a safe place for them in our hearts.

HOMEWORK: How have you talked to your teen about this?

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