We do Halloween and trick-or-treat BIG in my home. I start putting out the flying witches, floating ghosts, and creepy pumpkins as soon as the calendar flips to October 1. It’s seems to be the one holiday that everyone in the family can enjoy and get behind – no matter what their age.
We’ve all watched our toddling toddlers dressed like princesses and superheroes make their way down the street, grasping plastic pumpkins have their size and giddy while running door to door. Then we get to enjoy our school aged kids loving Halloween just as much, and then we watch our ‘tweens become eager to flex their independence muscle, and demand they go trick-or-treating without their mom and dad. And honestly, we can’t wait to let them!
Even as adults we’re still able get in on the Halloween action at costume parties, and socializing over cold beers on neighborhood driveways while the sun sets on October 31.
But what about our teenagers? How come it’s now commonplace to tell our teens to stay home because of their age? When did we start telling them they are too old to trick-or-treat, and it’s not appropriate (and even rude?) to go door to door anymore?
In no secret that today’s modern teenager is drowning in high achievement expectations and social and academic pressures. Today’s 14-year-old is last generation’s 18-year-old. We find ourselves forcing the maturation of our kids beyond their years when, in reality, a 14-year-old is much closer to childhood than adulthood. And yet when Halloween comes around, we tell them “no” to trick-or-treating.
Not my kids.
As a matter of fact, I literally shove mine out the door, trying to ensure they get every last little bit of childhood joy they can before the reality of young adulthood sets in. Do I care what my neighbors think of my 6 foot tall 17-year-old and his masked buddies knocking on their door on Halloween? Not in the slightest.
As a matter of fact, most of the neighbors get a kick out of those kids inhaling their last gasp of Halloween. I know when I open the door and see tall, lanky, and unusually awkward teenagers standing there wearing cheap masks and holding pillowcases open begging for full size Snickers bars, I laugh and say, “Well done kids!” because in my eyes they are still just that – KIDS.
So before their lives become all about college entrance exams, AP courses, volunteer hours and part-time jobs, why not let our teenagers spend one last night carefree, with zero pressures about their futures, and just the freedom to be a kid again?
If you’re still not comfortable about your teenagers trick or treating, a great alternative can be using the chance to turn Halloween into a community service project. There’s a great chance your teens need community service hours anyway, and a door to door food drive that takes place on Halloween is always highly successful, because people are already expecting to be answering their doors all evening.
This is how it works – contact your local food bank of choice or church food pantry and offer to collect canned goods for them on Halloween. Tell them you will be representing them by going door to door and asking for one canned good per household instead of candy.
Have the organization print out a letter of approval, then on Halloween send your teenagers out to trick or treat for canned goods, with the letter handy to show skeptical residents. Costumes are totally optional, but goofy teenagers dressed like Princess Elsa and a Teenage Ninja Turtle will be sure to bring smiles all round, as well as heightened eagerness of your neighbors to give to your food drive.
However you decide to have your teenagers spend their Halloween, whether it be encouraging them to dress up and going to door to door, using it as a chance to better their community, or having them be in costume at home and responsible for greeting the neighborhood’s little tikes, just remember your October 31’s with children at home are numbered. Before you know it, you’ll be wishing for just one more night with a costumed kid at home sprinting out the door at dusk. Your pillowcases may even miss it too.