When I was a child, Halloween was the time when, as soon as evening fell, we kids could roam alone through our small town, dressed in homemade costumes, being invited into almost every home on the block to pick up homemade goodies. Costumes and decorations were mostly silly rather than scary. People knew each other and, except for a possible stomach ache from too many sweets, there were no fears of anything bad happening to anyone. It was FUN!
By the time I was a mother, there were threats that had not existed in my childhood, with fears spread widely, and not knowing many people in our neighborhood. So I went along with my kids, made sure they could see in their costumes, picked the houses we went to, crossed streets carefully, and checked the candy before I let them eat it. Eventually, my kids persuaded me that they could stay safe without me, so they went with friends after we had agreed on where they would roam, the homes of people we knew well where they could go inside, the homes where they would stay on the doorsteps, how they would look carefully before crossing streets, and, unless they got it from a person or store we knew well, to save most goodies to be checked before being eaten. And, despite the changes, it was still FUN!
Yesterday, I had the pleasure of being a guest on the Growing Up in America radio show produced by Children at Risk, which is a research and advocacy organization dedicated to improving the lives of children in Texas. We discussed how to make a Halloween Safety Plan for their families and how to prepare kids as they get older for more independence. Here are some tips to keep in mind:
- Remember that the purpose of Halloween in modern times is to have fun – not to be terrified. Decide what is going to be best for your specific child. Remember that kids are different and what is fun for one might be terrifying for another. Is your child highly sensitive and likely to be upset by grisly costumes or decorations? Then avoid places where they are likely to see these. Pick houses that look friendly to visit. Go to kid-friendly parties or shopping centers that are celebrating Halloween. Remind older kids that stories and tricks have to be fun for everyone, including the youngest and most sensitive people present.
- Remember that the biggest hazard kids are likely to face is from cars. Tell kids to remove masks that might block their vision when they cross the street. Put reflective tape onto costumes to make them easier to see. Stay aware rather than distracted when you are driving yourself.
- Remember that kids are safest when you stay together. Go to the door with younger children, and model how to make safe choices. If you go into a house or let them eat a treat, explain why this is safe.
- Co-pilot with older kids to help them develop independence skills. As kids get older, let them practice assessing and Checking First by selecting which houses they want to go to and asking you if it is okay. Start to stand further and further away from them as you watch them go to the door on their own. Show them that their safety is still your top priority by putting your technology away and paying attention the whole time.
- Make sure kids are ready before you let them go on their own. At Halloween or any other time, before you let your kids go out without you, even with friends, make sure they are ready to take charge of their safety. Make a clear plan about where they will go, who will be with them, and what exactly they will be doing. Practice with them how tCheck First with you before changing their plan – and what to do if anyone tries to bother them or if they get lost – and how to resist peer pressure in case a friend wants them to break their safety rules.
Here are some additional resources that can help:
- Halloween Safety – The Kidpower Way in English and Halloween Seguridad in Spanish
- Keeping Halloween FUN for Kids
- The Creepy Clown Scare – What to teach kids about clown safety –
- Safety Checklist for Parents to prepare kids to go out on their own – in five languages
- Think and Check First – BEFORE you change your plan
- Kidpower’s Five-Step Plan to Prepare Kids for More Independence
Published: October 31, 2017 | Last Updated: October 31, 2017