Is your child too old to trick-or-treat?

I read this article yesterday, about some communities setting a maximum age for Trick-or-Treating.  This is the sentence that caught me:

Mayor Mark Eckert led the push for a high school trick-or-treating ban in 2008 because constituents — primarily single mothers and senior citizens — were frightened by larger teens showing up at their homes on Halloween.

This is my mom.  It might be someone you know, too, but who has not spoken up about how intimidating it is to be elderly, living alone, with teenagers knocking well after dark, being incredibly aware of how vulnerable you are.

In my mom’s neighborhood, it is not unusual for teenaged “Trick-or-Treaters” to ring her bell after 9:00pm, cigarettes in hand, not a costume in sight.  No matter how appropriate you think it is for teens to participate in an childhood tradition, that’s not.  If you are old enough to smoke, you are too old for free candy.

None of your teens would do that; nor would mine.  They are decent non-smoking kids who would wear a costume and remember to say thank you.  Yet they are still bigger than my mom, and look scarier traveling in a rowdy pack, even if the rowdiness is just happiness spilling over.

I am not telling you to keep your big kids home. (Although, I’m not opposed to that, either.)

I am asking you, if you have elderly relatives or neighbors, to stop by after the little children are done for the night.  Maybe invite them over, or just ask, “Are you okay tonight?”  Obviously, don’t incite fear if it’s not there, but don’t ignore it if it is.

If you are not near enough to be there physically, call them on the phone.  Ask if they’ve had many visitors.  Ask what they thought of the costumes.  Let them know they are not alone.

I’m also asking that you remind your older children that being extra-polite makes a big difference.  Walking on the sidewalk rather than trampling through a garden says, “I respect you and your property.  I’m not a hooligan.”  Letting smaller children have the right of way says, “A piece of candy is not worth trampling a toddler.  I’m a nice, goofy kid.”

Mostly, remind them that this is a holiday for children.  Children go to bed early.  Trick-or-treating should not last all night; when the families are done for the night, then it is over.  Invite them back to your house for pizza and a scary movie (or a not-scary movie) if they (and you) want the fun to continue.

On behalf of my mom, and others like her, thank you, and enjoy the candy!

I would not usually ask this, but please share or tweet this or even just mention to your friends that this would be a good time to reach out to your elderly (or single lady) neighbors, who may not enjoy this night as much as your children do.  Thank you!


22 thoughts on “Is your child too old to trick-or-treat?

  1. I think this is a very good idea. For me, as a younger person, groups of teens without costumes can be a bit intimidating after dark if I don’t know them.

  2. What a good post – something a lot of us don’t think about. I don’t have much patience for kids beyond maybe, maybe 14 trick or treating. By that age they should be home helping hand OUT the candy….but if they’re going to go – these are great suggestions.

    • I do wonder when the age was extended. My husband and I remember trick-or-treating ending with elementary school, along with the costume parties and parades at school.

  3. Very nice idea, thank you for helping to spread the word. Im always so happy that my 85 year old mother (who LOVES all holidays) joins my sister to hand out candy to, generally, little costumed kids. Not sure how they would react to too-old teens.

    • That is what we encourage my mom to do, too, but she doesn’t always feel like making the drive. I’m glad your mom is someplace where she can enjoy the trick-or-treaters. They are cute.

  4. I love this blog…first because we are ‘theme twins’ second because it is AWESOME. I think one of the things kids (ALL) are not taught anymore is about the general Halloween Courtesy… #1 rule: You don’t go to houses that don’t have a porch light on or some other beacon of welcoming. Why the hell would you go knock on a completely dark houses door?? No pumpkin, no porch light, no happy halloween like decorations…hell, even a grim reaper is an invite…if there is NO sign of enjoying the holiday you shouldn’t knock on that door. PERIOD.

  5. Good Lord it stole my comment! Ok once again….
    I love this blog because we are ‘theme twins”…and because it is AWESOME! But…general Halloween Courtesy needs to be TAUGHT. #1 rule: you don’t knock on houses that have no beacons of welcoming…that can be a porch light, a halloween decoration, a LIT pumpkin…etc..
    I’ll take a grim reaper at the door….but if it’s dark and has no signs of life you don’t knock there…you pass it by.
    I love that the High Schoolers all dress up and go…but it would be scary if I were 65. I figure though that if they have the balls to dress up and go…I’ll give them candy and wish them well.

  6. I don’t answer the door if I’m not expecting anyone when it’s just the girls and me. Unfortunately you can’t trust everyone these days. And, Halloween is no exception – you’re basically opening up the door to disguised strangers. Once the kids reach teen years they should not be trick or treating. There’s always other alternatives for them to enjoy the holiday without taking it into adulthood! And, I agree with Ms Possum. If the house does not look inviting – keep walking.

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  8. The last year we stopped answering the door and found alternatives to be away from home the year following was the year that several teens came as “pizza delivery” workers…that was their excuse for no costumes…and young adults with babies in costume trick or treating for the infant. If you’re old enough to be a parent, buy your own candy and give it out at the door for Pete’s sake. I hadn’t even thought of it being scary for the elderly or single mom’s…after all I had two over 6 feet home with me at the time.

  9. When I was in my early twenties I had some young men come to my door on Halloween without costumes looking for candy. I found it uncomfortable and ridiculous even then. No costume even? Also, like you said there should be a time frame. I don’t want people at my door at 10pm. I thought it was rude!

    I can imagine older people would be uncomfortable too. I would encourage them to turn the lights out at a certain time and just not answer the door. I think anyone that needed you would probably call before showing up in the night. I will share this for sure! Thanks for pointing it out.

    • Thanks, Lillian. I don’t think just turning out their lights makes an elderly woman feel safer when she knows there are so many older teens (ie adult sized men with less sense and impulse control) roaming around well after dark.

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  11. I wonder if we aren’t getting a wee bit extreme here. I mean it’s HALLOWEEN. It isn’t serial killer unit day! The only difference between that and a regular night is that the wackadoodles blend into the crowd easier. You know you wouldn’t open your door to a strange guy normally…don’t on halloween if your concerned. Or don’t make it a CHORE. Like someone said…turn out your light. Put a cute little “sorry we are out trick or treating” sign up (who says you can fib?) and hang out in your bedroom or better yet…hang with a neighbor…
    not every older teen has “poor impulse control” (um or is a complete psycho) and is just chompin at the bit to kick in some old ladies door because she wouldn’t open the door and give him a hershey bar.

    • I don’t think it is more extreme to show care and concern for the elderly than it is to show care and concern for young children. In many neighborhoods, Halloween is the only night where unknown teens are roaming your street. So it is different. If it weren’t, people would not be requesting the age limits. Hanging out with a neighbor is one of things I suggested; I am all for that.

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