Halloween brings man things to mind... friends, fun, costumes, and of course, trick or treating. More recently, however, Halloween has become an opportunity to break the rules and test the boundaries of acceptable behavior.
The tragedy that took a child's life while he was selling candy door to door in New Jersey, and the scattered abduction scares children experience, it is understandable that parents feel the need to exercise additional precautions during the Halloween season.
Parents of young children generally have a good sense of their children's age appropriate needs during Halloween. They correctly accompany young children door to door, limit their activities to the immediate neighborhood, have children trick or treat while it's still light out, carry flashlights at dusk, walk in groups accompanied by parents, and take advantage of the community and school Halloween parties that are now available as an alternative to trick or treating.
The question remains how to communicate to older children that they need to exercise safety precautions as well. Older children and adolescents are in some ways at greater risk because developmentally they believe they can make these decisions on their own, feeling independent and invincible. Parents of older children appropriately worry about being overprotective, and as such, have a hard time holding to their convictions about setting limits. In turn, older children and adolescents can also misinterpret protectiveness as a lack of trust. Finding a balance between encouraging independence, and setting appropriate limits to insure children's safety is a dilemma facing every parent. This is exacerbated during Halloween. It is imperative that parents trust their instincts. After all, they know their children better than anyone, and know what is best for them. It is also a good idea for parents to come together to discuss the issues that worry them in order to form a united front. Here are some suggestions for dealing with Halloween related issues.
Begin the discussion with your children regarding permissible behavior several days before Halloween. It is likely that more than one conversation will be necessary. Parents must set guidelines for a safe night. For example, is shaving cream, toilet paper, eggs, etc. allowed? Parents need to know who their children are going out with and how many other children will be in the group. Encourage your children to telephone if something changes, or if they are uncertain how to handle a situation. Parents are wise to cover limitations, expected curfews and issues regarding cars, alcohol and drugs. In short, educate and encourage your children to make the right decisions and know how to handle any situation that may occur. You must convince your children that just because it is Halloween, it does not mean there is a need to take more risks. In fact, parents may try to explain that on Halloween it may be necessary to take fewer risks.
Remember, it is the nature of children and adolescents to push the limits. You, the parent, must stick to your guns, letting them know how you feel, and teaching them how to take the necessary precautions. By doing so, you and your children will have a Happy Halloween.
Laurie Segal is a parent and certified social worker who specializes in Early Childhood Development and family Crisis Intervention. She is also the Director of F.A.C.E. I.T., a psychological wellness program for families, located in New Hyde Park, New York. Laurie lectures extensively on issues related to child and adolescent development and conducts seminars for parents on a variety of child rearing difficulties. She is currently in the process of having her book published, "How to Raise Healthy, Fully Empowered Children."