Are overprotective parents ruining Halloween? (2022)

SALT LAKE CITY — Halloween can be scary for kids. That’s half the fun. But these days, it may be parents who are most frightened. And that could be a problem.

Nearly 77% of parents report being fearful on Halloween. They worry about their kids being hit by a car or truck (31%), poisoning from tampered or spoiled treats (24%), abductions (15%), and other fears, according to a national survey conducted by Safe Kids Worldwide. Their fears aren’t entirely without justification: children are more than twice as likely to be hit and killed by a car on Halloween than any other day of the year.

Some parents are taking their kids off the streets with more controlled Halloween alternatives. While “traditional” trick-or-treating is reportedly on the decline, trunk-or-treating — in which kids go from vehicle to vehicle in a parking lot to ask for candy under the safe, watchful eye of parents or police — has grown in popularity over the past decade.

But some child psychologists and parenting experts have raised concerns about trunk-or-treats, saying that the practice deprives children of the growing opportunity traditional trick-or-treating provides — to step into the dark and out of one’s comfort zone, to get to know one’s neighbors, and to develop confidence and independence — and is emblematic of a larger national debate about overprotective vs. free-range parenting.

“The trunk-or-treat events are making the child’s world smaller and more predictable, which is unfortunate because that’s not a sample of what real life is like,” said Bonnie Zucker, child psychologist and author of “Anxiety-Free Kids.” “If we eliminate this opportunity for children to gain confidence, particularly when it’s rooted in our own parental anxiety, we’re doing a potential disservice to the child.”

Is “trunk-or-treating” a safe and fun alternative for kids to meet new people and get extra candy — or is it the result of overprotective parenting that’s ruining Halloween?

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Halloween isn’t just about candy

Parental fears about Halloween date back to the 1960s, when an urban legend began circulating that neighbors were putting razor blades in apples, spurring the rise of “stranger danger.” Some real horror stories followed: Ronald O’Bryan, Houston’s “Candy Man,” murdered his 8-year-old son on Halloween with a cyanide-stuffed Pixy Stix in 1974, and in 1982, seven people were killed in Illinois around Halloween with cyanide-laced Tylenol. In response, city councils began issuing official trick-or-treat hours and age restrictions.

“It is billed as a safe alternative to trick-or-treating, which immediately makes trick-or-treating sound like it’s dangerous — which it isn’t.” — Lenore Skenazy

The media hype that resulted from these rare, shocking incidents created a fear among parents that still affects parents today, when in fact studies show that the risk of poisoning and abduction by neighbors on Halloween is extremely low, said Lenore Skenazy, president of Let Grow, a nonprofit dedicated to childhood independence.

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That’s why Skenazy, who started the free-range parenting movement, takes issue with trunk-or-treat events: because they help perpetuate the notion that allowing children to participate in traditional trick-or-treating is unsafe, she said.

“It is billed as a safe alternative to trick-or-treating, which immediately makes trick-or-treating sound like it’s dangerous — which it isn’t,” she said.

The more sanitized nature of trunk-or-treats may soothe parents’ fears, but in Skenazy’s view, they place too much focus on candy and overlook what makes trick-or-treating a powerful growing experience for kids: the chance to taste the fears and freedoms associated with adulthood.

“It’s a holiday when kids get to practice being adults for a night,” she said. “They have to put on adult clothes — Superman, a police officer, a doctor, or a rock star. Then they have to go to their job, which is cold-calling their neighbors. They have to engage in a little conversation with adults, which is trick-or-treating. And then they are responsible for bringing home the goods.”

This experience presents children with new challenges and new rewards: the fear of going out into the dark, getting lost, and talking to new people, and also the thrill of navigating the world by yourself, bonding with your friends, and trying on a new persona.

“It’s the one time of year that we say to kids: we trust you to be responsible and resourceful,” she said. “And even on that one day, we are taking that away from them, and instead giving them the opportunity to collect candy in a sanitized, safe environment, as if the holiday is all about candy.”

For children who suffer from anxiety disorders, Halloween can be a particularly powerful growing experience, according to Zucker.

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“For kids with social anxiety or separation anxiety, we definitely want them to face their fears,” said Zucker. “Even if we have to do it in a step-by-step fashion, where they only do five houses this year and 10 houses next year, we definitely want them to get out there and explore the world. Anytime we do something that’s hard for us, we become more confident.”

Are overprotective parents ruining Halloween? (1)

Kristin Murphy, Deseret News

Building community — or delaying maturity?

But while some see trunk-or-treat events as taking kids away from their communities and making them less trustful of their neighbors and the world around them, others view them as a powerful vehicle (pun intended) to build trust within communities.

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One of those people is County Commissioner Jeff Wall of Madison County, Tennessee. In 2007, he noticed that across the nation, the relationship between youth and law enforcement had deteriorated and kids were looking at police with distrust and fear. So he had the idea of bringing kids, parents, police officers and first responders to the same trunk-or-treat event.

“The idea was simply to bring our community closer together,” said Wall. “I was trying to bring everyone under one roof so that children could develop a positive relationship with law enforcement and see the good that they do for the community.”

The first year, there was just one fire truck and one patrol car. Wall picked up $100 worth of candy from Sam’s Club and was delighted when 60 people showed up. But it grew into an annual event. In 2017, 3 million pieces of candy were handed out at the Jackson-Madison County Trunk-or-Treat. This year’s event, held Monday, drew a record crowd of 16,000 children and their families, with a $15,000 budget funded by local businesses, he said.

For kids living in neighborhoods with high crime rates, or in rural areas where there is no place to go trick-or-treating at all, trunk-or-treats are a great solution to ensure that children have a fun Halloween experience and allow community members to get to know each other in a positive environment, said Susan Groner, founder of The Parenting Mentor.

David Nelson, professor of family studies at Brigham Young University, agrees. Nelson, a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, said his congregation hosts a trunk-or-treat every year as a church social.

“It comes down to context and the reasons people are engaging in these events,” said Nelson. “If you’re using it to create community connections, it’s a great idea. If you’re using it to delay maturity in your kids, it’s a terrible idea.”

Skenazy said the important thing for parents to focus on is giving kids opportunities to gain trust in the world around them and build confidence — and sometimes the best way to do so is by allowing kids to step out of their comfort zone.

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“Halloween is an opportunity for spontaneity and adventure,” she said. “What can make your kids safer than anything is confidence, learning how to be flexible and resourceful, dealing with surprises, so they can improvise when something goes wrong.”

FAQs

Are 14 year olds too old for Halloween? ›

When it comes to the legal side of things, it's perfectly OK to go trick or treating at any age, whether your kids are four or 14 – there's no legal limit.

Does Halloween have an age limit? ›

Halloween has no age limit, say experts — as long as your teen follows some rules. As Halloween approaches, parents may wonder if the spooky day associated with costumes and candy has an age-related shelf life.

How do you stop people from knocking on Halloween? ›

How to avoid unwanted trick or treaters this Halloween
  1. Turn off porch lights. An unofficial signal that you don't want visitors is to turn off any porch or outdoor lights. ...
  2. Put signs out. Signs can prove a great way to deter unwanted callers at Halloween. ...
  3. Make your home uninviting. ...
  4. Leave sweets to take. ...
  5. Scare them.

Is 20 too old to trick-or-treat? ›

People can trick-or-treat at any age, but in order to receive candy you do have to wear some kind of costume, even if it's one of those “funny” no-effort ones where you just wear a fanny pack and call yourself a tourist or something.

Is 17 too old to go trick-or-treating? ›

"[You're] never too old to trick-or-treat, unless you're the parent who carries around your own bag for candy and sneaks your hand into the candy bowl when accompanying your own children around the block!"

Is 13 too old for trick-or-treating? ›

Most teenagers stop dressing up and trick-or-treating somewhere between the ages of 12 and 16 — but that doesn't necessarily mean it's bad manners for them to go door-to-door, as long as they are polite while out on the streets.

Is 16 too old to trick-or-treat? ›

Is 16 too old to go trick-or-treating? Per at least one etiquette expert, there is no cut-off age for trick-or-treating.

Do kids trick-or-treat anymore? ›

Indeed, a 2011 survey by the nonprofit Safe Kids Worldwide found that 73 percent of parents take their kids trick-or-treating, so the tradition is still going strong.

Is trick-or-treat illegal? ›

Trick-or-treating is not illegal. But the police have powers to deal with anti-social behaviour.

Should teenagers go trick-or-treating? ›

Trick-or-treating for a teenager is good because teens are given the ability to relive what they always did as younger children. Teens could also grow stronger bonds with their friends if they go trick-or-treating with them. A teenager may be asked by his or her parents to take a younger sibling out to trick-or-treat.

Is it illegal to trick-or-treat UK? ›

Yes, trick or treating in the UK is legal. However, police have the power to deal with anyone who engages in antisocial behaviour. This could include harassment, vandalism or disorder. If a child is under 16, their parents are liable to pay any fines they incur.

What age should a kid get a phone? ›

What Age Should Children Get A Phone? There are no governmental guidelines on when a child should get their smartphone as it is an individual family decision. The Pew Research Organization notes that the ideal age could be 12-14 years.

Is it weird to trick-or-treat in high school? ›

Even though teenagers can go and buy their own candy, going trick or treating is a fun experience. If you are worried that you would be taking candy from the little kids you can just go out later more towards the end of the crowd. Halloween is not just a holiday for kids to go trick or treating.

Is it illegal to trick-or-treat in Canada at 16? ›

Anyone over 16 caught knocking on doors looking for candy, or wearing a "facial disguise" after curfew, could be forced to shell out for a $200 fine, CBC reported. The new rule is a revision of a law passed in 2005, which capped the trick-or-treating age at 14 and enforced a 7 p.m. curfew.

Is it illegal to steal candy on Halloween? ›

Stealing something away from a person directly is often charged much more seriously than stealing something from a store, or from a person's unattended bag, regardless of value. Even though it's just taking candy from a kid, it can still result in serious aggravated theft charges, which can result in actual jail time.

How late do people trick-or-treat? ›

Trick or treating, according to popular polling, typically ends around 9 p.m. each Halloween for older kids, with younger kids tiring out at around 8 p.m. Because Halloween 2022 falls on a Monday, kids may tuck in earlier since it's a school night (and many of their parents may have work in the morning).

What time does trick-or-treating stop? ›

Each city can vastly differ in local guidelines for trick-or-treating on their streets, but there's a general window in mind for most Americans. A 2015 poll conducted by FiveThirtyEight suggests that most Americans agreed that trick-or-treaters should start arriving by 6 p.m. and be finished by 9 p.m. at the latest.

Is it illegal to trick-or-treat in Virginia? ›

"Sec.

"(b)If any person shall engage in the activity commonly known as "trick or treat" or any other activity of similar character or nature under any name whatsoever after 8:00 p.m., he or she shall be guilty of a Class 4 misdemeanor. Such laws are not anything new in the state.

What age should you stop trick-or-treating UK? ›

Is there a legal age to stop trick or treating? No, there's no laws around trick or treating here in the UK. When your child is under 16, you're liable to pay any fines if there's any anti-social behaviour going on while they're out and about.

Why do we say trick-or-treat on Halloween? ›

The earliest recorded examples of the “trick or treat” phrase come from Canadian newspapers in the 1920s. The phrase appears to be a reference to tricking - or disguising yourself - and treating, getting a treat at people's doors.

What night will kids trick-or-treat? ›

National Trick or Treat Day on the last Saturday in October extends one of the country's favorite holidays – Halloween! Dressing up as the scariest or most fascinating character we know draws us to the holiday. People of all ages put hours of effort into creating elaborate costumes for one big night.

Why are there no trick or treaters anymore? ›

Kids are still trick-or-treating, but …

With the changing economy and shift in the cost of living, these neighborhoods tend to not have as many families in them as they used to. Because of this, the article continues, families will travel to certain neighborhoods to trick-or-treat.

When did Halloween start? ›

In the eighth century, Pope Gregory III designated November 1 as a time to honor saints. Soon after, All Saints Day came to incorporate some of the traditions of Samhain. The evening before All Saints Day was known as All Hallows Eve, and later, Halloween.

Do people celebrate Halloween anymore? ›

Every October 31st, people all over the United States celebrate Halloween. Children and adults dress in costumes and attend parties, visit haunted houses, and eat Halloween candy. Most kids spend the night “trick-or-treating,” going door-to-door to collect sweets from their neighbors.

Do kids trick-or-treat in England? ›

Trick-or-treating is more common in the US.

Going door to door for candy is not as big a deal in the UK. "I took my kids trick-or-treating when I lived in the UK but it was pretty low-key. Not many adults dressed in costumes," said a British Quora user who relocated to California.

Why is Halloween not celebrated in UK? ›

One of the reasons Halloween isn't as widely celebrated throughout the UK with the enthusiasm of other countries is that there is another celebration that takes place close to the date. On November 5th, Guy Fawkes Night or Bonfire Night is celebrated in the United Kingdom.

How do adults trick-or-treat? ›

How To Go Trick-Or-Treating As An Adult
  1. Bring Kids. ...
  2. Let The Kids Go First. ...
  3. Bring Treats For The Adults. ...
  4. Don't Go By Yourself. ...
  5. Go At A Decent Hour. ...
  6. Dress As Something Cute & Fun. ...
  7. Stay In Your Neighborhood. ...
  8. Arrange A Neighborhood Trick-Or-Treat Party.
18 Oct 2015

How many people are trick-or-treating? ›

Seventy-six percent of American adults do something to celebrate Halloween, whether with decorations, passing out candy to treat-or-treaters, or watching a scary movie.

Why is it illegal to dress up as a nun in Alabama? ›

The lack of popularity for both is probably a good thing in Alabama because – technically speaking – it's illegal to dress up as a member of the clergy here. According to Section 13A-14-4 of the Alabama Code, dressing up as a priest, nun or other clergy member is a misdemeanor.

Is it illegal to dress up as a nun in Alabama? ›

The rest of your costume may also be illegal in some locales. In Alabama, it's illegal to dress up as a minister, priest, nun, or any other member of clergy. Violators can be slapped with a $500 fine and a year in jail.

Is it illegal to dress up as a clown for Halloween 2021? ›

POLICE are warning people celebrating Halloween at the end of the month if the dress up as a clown, they could get arrested. If they don a creepy costume and deliberately scare others, they could find themselves in trouble.

Is it weird to trick-or-treat at 14? ›

31, experts say. Most teenagers stop dressing up and trick-or-treating somewhere between the ages of 12 and 16 — but that doesn't necessarily mean it's bad manners for them to go door-to-door, as long as they are polite while out on the streets.

Do teens go trick-or-treating? ›

Typically, a teenager on Halloween night will stay home and hand out candy to other trick-or-treaters. Overall, teenagers should go trick-or-treating.

Is it weird for high schoolers to go trick-or-treating? ›

Halloween is not just a holiday for kids to go trick or treating. Halloween is for all ages. There is something for everyone. Younger kids can go trick or treating and us teenagers can go too.

Can a 16 year old go trick-or-treating? ›

Is 16 too old to go trick-or-treating? Per at least one etiquette expert, there is no cut-off age for trick-or-treating.

Is it illegal to steal candy on Halloween? ›

Stealing something away from a person directly is often charged much more seriously than stealing something from a store, or from a person's unattended bag, regardless of value. Even though it's just taking candy from a kid, it can still result in serious aggravated theft charges, which can result in actual jail time.

What age should a kid get a phone? ›

What Age Should Children Get A Phone? There are no governmental guidelines on when a child should get their smartphone as it is an individual family decision. The Pew Research Organization notes that the ideal age could be 12-14 years.

How late does trick-or-treating last? ›

Trick or treating, according to popular polling, typically ends around 9 p.m. each Halloween for older kids, with younger kids tiring out at around 8 p.m. Because Halloween 2022 falls on a Monday, kids may tuck in earlier since it's a school night (and many of their parents may have work in the morning).

How old should you be to go trick-or-treating without parents? ›

So kids aged 10 to 11 years old are most likely ready to go trick-or-treating without an adult chaperone. While we know our kids, and we trust that our kids will make good choices, it's still scary to think about your little one going out into the night on their own.

What night will kids trick-or-treat? ›

National Trick or Treat Day on the last Saturday in October extends one of the country's favorite holidays – Halloween! Dressing up as the scariest or most fascinating character we know draws us to the holiday. People of all ages put hours of effort into creating elaborate costumes for one big night.

Can I take my baby trick-or-treating? ›

Proper Halloween etiquette indicates no. It would be considered rude to take your little one out trick or treating and expect families to give you candy that they know your baby is too young to eat. Showing off your baby is fine, or dressing your baby up while you stay home and hand out candy to the neighborhood kids.

Is it illegal to trick-or-treat in Virginia? ›

"Sec.

"(b)If any person shall engage in the activity commonly known as "trick or treat" or any other activity of similar character or nature under any name whatsoever after 8:00 p.m., he or she shall be guilty of a Class 4 misdemeanor. Such laws are not anything new in the state.

Do kids in the UK trick-or-treat? ›

Trick-or-treating is more common in the US.

Going door to door for candy is not as big a deal in the UK. "I took my kids trick-or-treating when I lived in the UK but it was pretty low-key. Not many adults dressed in costumes," said a British Quora user who relocated to California.

Why do we say trick-or-treat on Halloween? ›

The earliest recorded examples of the “trick or treat” phrase come from Canadian newspapers in the 1920s. The phrase appears to be a reference to tricking - or disguising yourself - and treating, getting a treat at people's doors.

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