Cincinnati Family Magazine

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May 26, 2024

‘Tweens and Trick-or-Treating

Help your older kids enjoy the creativity of the season without getting into trouble.

Full1807.jpgTweens and 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 kids 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 that older children should not actively participate in trick or treating for fear they’ll be overly mischievous. Older trick-or-treaters are often unfairly stereotyped as being demonstrative, destructive, pumpkin-smashing delinquents.

In reality, most kids between the ages of 12 and 17 look forward to Halloween because it provides the opportunity to act like a kid instead of a serious student. “Taking away the opportunity to creatively express themselves can be stifling for children,” believes family therapist Barbara Mueller. “I work with many teens who feel pressure to always be mature. Giving them an outlet at Halloween is a great way to alleviate some of those pressures,” she adds.

Allowing your teen some safe and constructive guidelines makes it possible for him to partake in all the ghoulish festivities of the season.

Know What They’re Up To

It can be tempting to toss a few rolls of toilet paper, eggs or cans of shaving cream into a candy collection bag for some simple, practical tricks on the path to gathering treats. Seeing him off on his candy quest helps ensure he’s not leaving home with anything more than a goodie collection bag and the proper safety items.

It’s 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.

“Stop treating me like a baby!” is something many parents of teen trick-or-treaters will hear this year. Despite his protests, knowing your child’s planned route and who he’s trick or treating with may be viewed as over protective, but it can also reduce the risk of his involvement in practical jokes as well as ensure his safety.

Consider Alternatives

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 and transforming 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, 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, 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.

They’re never too old to be worried about. 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.

Just because he may be old enough to go trick or treating without you doesn’t mean you shouldn’t worry about his safety. Make sure your teen has a predetermined route and advises you of the area he and his friends are planning to travel. He should stick to neighborhoods he’s familiar with and know how to get home. Teens should know to avoid dark streets, cutting through yards, crossing in between parked cars and entering strange homes.

Practice Common Sense

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission advises that all trick-or-treaters examine treats for potential tampering. As with younger children, sending them out with a full stomach reduces the chance that he’ll snack on treats before they’ve been sorted at home.

Older kids are bolder but remind them not to call on a houses that are dark or obstructed from the street.

Teen trick or treaters should always travel in groups and carry a cell phone or a two-way radio. Make sure all batteries are completely charged before your child’s group leaves. Your teen ghoul or goblin should also carry a flashlight.

Trust His Instincts

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 his 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 reassurance.

If your teen shows an interest in Halloween, Mueller advises that as long as he follows common sense 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.”

Gina Roberts-Grey is a freelance writer and licensed clinical social worker and mother.


  • Organize a group of kids who will go out together. Lay down the rules you want them to follow including when they are to be back.
  • Instruct the kids to beware of dogs and to stay clear of any home where they hear a dog barking.
  • Instruct the kids to approach only houses that are well lit and within sight of the sidewalk or street.
  • Warn the kids not to eat any candy that they have not checked first.
  • Emphasize the importance of traffic lights, stop signs, and looking before crossing the street.
  • The leading cause of injury on Halloween is falling. Provide a flashlight for each child to keep at the top of the candy bag.

For additional Halloween safety information contact U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission’s toll-free hotline at 800-638-2772 or visit online at

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