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Should you give candy to teenage trick-or-treaters?

Last Updated Oct 31, 2019 at 9:25 am CST

(iStock Photo)

The Editor-in-Chief of Today's Parent says teens trick-or-treating is okay

She says you don't know kids' situations and shouldn't judge them for engaging in harmless fun while they can

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – How old is too old to trick-or-treat? It’s a question many adults wrestle with on Halloween when the kid demanding candy at their door looks like they could have driven there.

But one parenting expert says before you do the grumpy, shake-your-fist-at-the-kids-these-days thing, consider the alternatives.

“My feeling is that there is no age limit for kids to go out trick-or-treating,” explains Kim Shiffman, Editor-in-Chief at Today’s Parent.

“First of all, a cut-off date is rather arbitrary — should it be 11? Should it be 13 or 15? Who’s to say? And shaming teens, who are kids after all, for trying to prolong what is ultimately a fun and harmless childhood tradition seems pretty unreasonable to me.”

Shiffman asks if you would rather see those teens out for a night of wandering mischief.

“What would we rather teens be doing? In the basement trying alcohol or smoking? Going out to cause trouble? They are literally collecting candy. It’s harmless and fun.”

Shiffman also believes one of the most compelling reasons to be open and friendly to teenagers coming to their door is that you don’t know their situation.

“That tall kid with the deep voice could actually only be 11 or 12 years old and he may also have special needs,” she explains.

“We don’t know if that child may have autism or is different in a neuro-atypical way. To judge them for wanting to come and harmlessly ask for some candy just seems unfair.”

But what if that teen doesn’t have a costume? Shiffman argues you should still hand out some treats.

“You don’t know their background. Maybe they have a sensory issue that makes wearing a costume difficult for them. Maybe they are in a socioeconomic place in their life where they couldn’t afford a formal costume. To put these judgments on teenagers and come up with this arbitrary date for when they have to stop going out and having harmless fun seems, to me, to be really unreasonable.”

However, Shiffman feels parents of those teens have to set some strong guidelines.

“If you’re going to let them go out when they are older and there won’t be any parents around, you have to let them know that doesn’t mean they can engage in bad behaviour.”

That includes, she says, teaching them that banging on doors where the lights are out and the jack-o-lantern has been extinguished is not okay.

“Pranks are also not okay. Smashing a pumpkin may seem harmless but the three-year-old who lives there and wakes up the next morning is going to be devastated,” Shiffman adds.

“It shouldn’t be a free-for-all, but they should be allowed out.”