How old is too old to trick-or-treat?
Should there be an age limit on kids when it comes to trick-or-treating?
It’s a question many parents ask every October, especially as their kids enter their teen years. However, last month the question was brought up again after a city in New Brunswick imposed an age ban and curfew for trick-or-treating.
This new bylaw bans anyone over the age of 16 from going door-to-door on Oct. 31st and any trick-or-treating must stop at 8 p.m. If anyone is found to be breaking the bylaw then they can face a fine of up to $200.
But for parenting experts Gail Bell of Parenting Power and parenting author Alyson Schafer, a bylaw like this takes it too far and any decision made around trick-or-treating should be an individual family decision.
“Most kids end up stopping [trick-or-treating] somewhere between 12 and 16 years old,” Bell says. “It really is a family decision but it’s also a parent’s responsibility to set the expectations before the kids go out.”
This means making sure effort is put into their night out. For example, having an appropriate costume, being courteous to smaller children and setting a curfew.
Even so, Schafer says parents should warn their older kids that they may be refused candy by some households if they believe there is an age limit.
“Tell them they may get refused and not to make a big deal if that is the case,” she advises. “There are lots of other friendly doors to knock on. Decide in advance your candy policy, though. Older kids can get a lot quickly and you may want to talk about limits first.”
But if parents feel their kid is getting too old, it’s a good time to have a calm talk.
“If they come home today and say a bunch of their friends are going out trick-or-treating and you say no way, that’s just asking for a huge fight and power struggle,” Bell says. “They don’t know what you’re thinking, so don’t assume.”
Instead, have a conversation beforehand and mention to them that you feel they’re getting too old to go out. You may let them go this year, but tell them you don’t want them going out next year. Finding that compromise while imposing rules can avoid a big fight.
So if age limits aren’t a big deal for some families, this may mean younger kids will have to share the stoop with the big kids. If this happens, Schafer has some advice for parents of little ones.
“Younger kids should be supervised,” Schafer says. “If they are old enough to go without a parent, they can take an older sibling. Someone in the group should also have a cellphone. Tell them to stay on busy streets where little kids are trick-or-treating with their parents so there is an adult around if they need to reach out for help.”
If kids are in that transitional period (grades five, six or seven) and they want to go out alone with their friends for the first time, Bell says this is also another time to set some rules.
Tell them which areas they can trick-or-treat in. They should also check back in at certain times with mom or dad.
“The chances of older kids bothering littler kids while trick-or-treating are slim,” Bell says. “However, stuff happens. So if something is happening that makes everyone uncomfortable, then tell kids to stick together and go to a nearby home and ask for help.”
If parents feel their child is too old but knows their child still wants to celebrate, there are alternatives parents can suggest that don’t involve going door-to-door that will still make Halloween fun for tweens and teens, Schafer says.
“Halloween parties can be just as fun,” she says. “Older kids like participating by answering the door in a costume or sitting like a statue until someone steps on the porch and then startling them.”
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