As parents, one of the biggest joys is getting your kids all dressed up for trick-or-treating and watching their excitement as they go from house to house gathering candy. Sadly, kids don't stay little for long and before you know it they're trying to ditch you to go begging for candy with their friends instead.
Aside from not wanting them to go with their friends out of sheer selfishness (because their friends didn't raise them!), you may hesitate to say yes to your kid's request because you're not sure if they're old enough to wander around without an adult. But, what is the right age to let them do it? If you're a true-crime podcast listener, you'll be quick to say "never", but the horror stories are the exception, not the rule, and at some point you have to let them go alone and enjoy their childhood (but not before you get at least 50 pictures of them in their costume).
How Old Should A Child Be To Trick-Or-Treat Without Parents?
Unfortunately, there's no hard and fast rule on an acceptable age. According to psychotherapist, Dr. Jenn Mann parents should consider several factors in determining if its safe to let their kids fly solo for Halloween including the safety of the neighborhood and the child's maturity level. She also says that "most experts agree" that 13 is a reasonable age but an 11-year-old could have great judgment and awareness that would make it safe for them to go solo. Likewise, a 13-year-old could be a little immature and still not quite ready to run around without an adult hovering nearby.
Parenting expert and member of Safe Kids Canada, Kirsten Gane is a little more liberal in her recommendation. She suggests that research has shown that age nine is old enough to let your kids head out alone - even without a parent watching and walking across the street to keep an eye on things.
These two experts have a large gap between their recommendation, so what's a mom to do (aside from teaching your child about the candy tax, no matter what age they are)?
Kids Trick-Or-Treating With Their Friends Varies With Each Kid
Parents need to ask themselves how they truly feel about their child roaming the neighborhood in the dark alone. Obviously it's scary, but think about your child; is he trustworthy? Has she learned safety rules? Does he know his way around the neighborhood well enough to not get lost? Also, consider the friends your child is asking to go with, and ask yourself the same questions about them.
If you, deep down, know that your child is responsible enough to go around the neighborhood without you (even if you don't want them to) the next thing to do is consider the neighborhood you live in. Is it safe? Do you know your neighbors well enough to trust them to alert you if they see something that doesn't seem right? Do you allow your child to run around with her friends when it's light out? If you're confident that where you live is safe (or as safe as it can be, as every true-crime obsessed mom knows), then there's no reason to doubt that Halloween is any different.
There's No Increased Risk Of Danger During Trick-Or-Treating
If you need a little extra assurance, a 2017 study found that was no increase in reports of child abductions or assault on October 31 than any other day of the year. Another study, which has been updated annually since 1958, found no incident where a child lost their life or became seriously sick from poisoned candy they received during trick-or-treating.
It's important to allow your child to enjoy their childhood and have a sense of independence. If this is the first year you're letting your little one go off without you, set some ground rules from the start. Establish a curfew, discuss safety measures to take, tell them they are required to answer any and every call/text they get from you, and determine how far away from the house they are allowed to go during the night. Maturity is key here, because if a child is ready to go out on their own they will be willing to follow the rules.
What You Should Do When Your Child Is Trick-Or-Treating By Themselves
As for you, invite your friends over (maybe some fellow moms going through the same thing) to spend the evening and hand out candy with you. Stay distracted so you're not constantly checking in on your kid. Whether you decide the right age is nine, 13, or somewhere in between, try to remember the reasons you allowed your child to go out alone in the first place because it will help bring you a little peace.
If nothing else, be grateful your kid still wants to dress up and trick-or-treat because before you know it they'll declare they're too big to celebrate the day at all, and that's a completely new kind of heartbreak.
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