Halloween is a tricky holiday for safety (see what we did there?). You have to hold allowing children to build independence and resilience in tension with maintaining a protective environment for your child.
Kids need to learn to be savvy and street smart, but parents must also recognize that it’s their responsibility to keep their child safe. So how do you find a balance?
The trick is to implement safety standards and boundaries ahead of time. Have an idea of where you’re going and what your kids will be doing. Follow Step 2 of the 5 Steps to Protecting Children® and minimize the opportunities for abuse by never leaving your kids unattended. Make sure to have a conversation about boundaries beforehand as well—remind your kids that no one should ever touch them in a way that makes them uncomfortable, and they can come to you if they feel discomfort with anything.
If you have an older kid, this might be a good chance to have an honest conversation about consent. If your teenager is going out without you, remind them that every person has the right to say “no” to unwanted touch. Teens also need to know that you’ll believe them if they confide in you. Make sure they know that if they come to you for help, they will receive love and acceptance rather than shame. Establishing this trust helps create a protective barrier around your kid even when you’re not there.
This is all well and good before the big event. How can you protect your kids in the moment?
Halloween for Younger Kids
Trick-or-treating or fall festivals with young children can make the most beautiful memories. And who doesn’t love free candy? In the midst of the merry-making, some best practices include:
- Map out your route – do you know the people’s houses you will be making stops at?
- Don’t leave your kids unattended- there is safety in numbers, so make sure there are multiple safe adults (and perhaps also multiple children) present.
- Don’t allow your kids to enter homes unless that home belongs to a trusted adult.
- Have your kids carry flashlights/glow sticks so they can see and be seen.
- Are they spending the night out? Touch-base with the other parent(s) and find out who all will be staying over and what are the sleeping arrangements.
Halloween for Older Kids
Teenagers might approach Halloween as an opportunity to have fun without parents around. It’s normal for them to want independence. You can still protect them by equipping your teen with safety measures such as:
- Be on the same page about where your teen is going, who they’ll be with, and when they should be back. Check-in with them periodically, just to make sure they’re safe. You may even plan a safe trick or treating route together.
- Ask them to remain with a group, instead of going off on their own. Remember, there’s safety in numbers!
- Remind them that no matter what a person is wearing as a costume, boundaries still exist and matter.
- Establish a “safe word” that the teen can use if they need a reason to leave. If they use that word, you’ll know to come get them immediately.
Remember to have fun and don’t forget to get some candy for yourself!
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