Are your tweenagers trick-or-treating without you?

(Editor’s Note: Keith Still will be filling in for me for part of next week and the week after while we bring our kitchen back to the future. (Get it? It’s an ’80s reference because my kitchen looks like the ’80s.) But she had a burning question about Halloween so she wrote today’s topic also.)

With my eldest child’s twelfth birthday and Halloween coming up this weekend, we are once again forced to realize that our daughter is growing up.

Since beginning middle school a couple of months ago, our daughter has become much more independent and responsible. She also has a close group of increasingly-independent and responsible friends. And while life with a middle-schooler is no cake walk, it’s also not nearly as bad (so far) as I had feared.

So as birthday number twelve approaches, our “little girl” is hoping to strike out on her own this Halloween and go trick-or-treating with her friends. She has trick-or-treated with her friends in a way for years – mainly because some live down the street, and others drive to our neighborhood to go door-to-door each October 31st. The difference is that my husband and I, along with our younger daughters, are always out on the streets with our tweenager and her group.  The older kids may run ahead, go through our neighbor’s wicked haunted house and socialize within eyesight, but not earshot, of the grown-ups.

Now, they want to go it all alone. Our neighborhood is safe, and there are plenty of parents out and about with their children during trick-or-treating hours. Our daughter knows many of those parents and children. The girls are wearing appropriate Halloween costumes. They are still content to be scary vampires, instead of scantily-clad vampires. Several are choosing to don the most freakish outfit imaginable to a middle schooler, opting to dress like hippies for the evening. (Although, I don’t think hippies wore jeans from Aeropostale.)

They will, of course, travel in a big group. They will be required to stick to a certain route and check in with us; and they will all carry flashlights. We are still trying to determine how often the kids must check in with the parents, and how long they can stay out trolling for sweets.

Personally, I am torn by this Halloween quandary. As proud as I am that she is growing up, I will miss trick-or-treating with her. Even with her friends in tow the past few years, Halloween still always felt like a family outing. One year – probably very soon – she will give up trick-or-treating altogether, and then I’ll be forced to reckon with the fact that she’s not just growing up – but that she’s nearly grown.

At what age did your children begin trick-or-treating on their own? What rules did you set for the first time? How far from home were they allowed to walk? How often did they check in, and how late were they allowed to stay out?  At about what age do kids give up trick-or-treating altogether?

86 comments Add your comment

mom2alex&max

October 30th, 2009
7:10 am

Why is it that every time I read an article like this, where a child has reached a certain milestone that shows more independence, my one and only reaction is “I can’t wait”?

I’m almost never sad at these types of milestones…I am HAPPY.

Vork

October 30th, 2009
7:31 am

I vote that the word, “tweenager” be stricken from the English language because it is stupid and you sound like an idiot when you use it in a sentence or even worse, when you say it out loud.

Theresa Walsh Giarrusso

October 30th, 2009
7:44 am

I like it better than tweens — I think it indicates the teenage part of it. I have never heard it before and Keith had it in the story and i thought she was brilliant for thinking it up!!

DB

October 30th, 2009
7:50 am

My daughter was 11-1/2 — 6th grade — when she was allowed to go out with friends. This was 7 years ago, so no cell phone, etc. We agreed on a route, and she had to be back home by 8:30. And that was that. She didn’t have to “check in”, etc. — the neighborhood is safe, a big Halloween neighborhood, and she had proven herself to be responsible — she had already started babysitting a bit, as a “mother’s helper.” She was home at 8:27 :-) Our kids were not allowed to trick-or-treat after the age of 13, and that worked out fine, because it was at this point we, as parents of her and her friends, began having Halloween parties. A bit more supervision for the teenagers if you know what I mean :-)

If you’re going to give a child “freedom”, then give them freedom, don’t just lengthen the lease with a cell phone where they have to call in every 15 minutes. That’s not freedom, that’s just an anxious mom having trouble letting go. Set a deadline, with consequences if they don’t meet it. It’s a good age to start building up trust and responsibility.

DB

October 30th, 2009
7:51 am

Oops, I meant “lengthen the LEASH” not the lease!

Moron

October 30th, 2009
7:54 am

Too many parents won’t let their kids go off alone on this annual rite, too many child molesters are waiting down the street to grab YOUR kid.

Theresa Walsh Giarrusso

October 30th, 2009
8:02 am

I keep thinking about that little girl from Florida who was just walking home from school middle of the day — ended up dead in a Georgia dump — you just don’t know. Keith is a least willing to let her try — I don’t know that I would be — Her eldest is very smart and very responsible but especially with the dark it makes me nervous.

Photius

October 30th, 2009
8:12 am

Oh for crying out loud new age Mommies and Daddies – let a 12 year old trick or treat ALONE – start leaving your kid alone. Pansy parents.

Fred

October 30th, 2009
8:14 am

I say 12 is fine depending on the neighborhood. You know what your neighborhood is like. Would you let them out on a normal night at 8 or 9? if so then i think that letting them out on Halloween is fine too. Our town has a 14 YO age limit for kids trick or treating. I dont remember causing too much havoc when i was out, but you have to know your kids and who they are going to be with. As for checking in, maybe once half way through, just to make sure that they are where they say they are going to be and once right before they are supposed to be home to make sure that they are on there way home. At 12 i dont think they deserve or cant handle freedom, but i do like the idea of lengthening the leash a little bit.

JATL

October 30th, 2009
8:19 am

@mom2alex&max – I’m with you! I know Alex may be a girl’s name as well, but if you have two wild boys like I do, the thought of them being more independent and actually doing things on their own makes you giddy with pleasure! I love my boys, and I’m trying as hard as I can to enjoy their baby and toddler years, but at this point I’m almost nuts.

Theresa, I think you should quit watching and reading the news. We know about every abduction, rape, child molestation, killing, etc. that goes on in the nation and sometimes the world now. It’s not that horrific things haven’t always happened, because they have -it’s that now we know about all of it! You’re going to have to let your kids have some freedom at some point. Here’s a hint too -my mother was overprotective in the extreme, and I couldn’t WAIT to get away from home. I got an early acceptance to college at 16, moved away and went wild! I can’t tell you how much I wish I had a more normal growing up experience without a hovering, worried mother so maybe I would have had a more mature approach to leaving home and going to college. I was extremely responsible and mature in every way except when it came to getting some freedom because I had been denied any freedom (to the point of being embarrassed around my peers). It turned me into a liar to my parents and a wild child when I finally got out from under them (her -it was my mother -my father just went along with whatever she said). SO -let an 11 or 12 year old trick or treat in her own neighborhood! Kids desperately need age-appropriate (and this is if I’ve ever heard it) freedoms in order to become well-adjusted young adults and adults.

Renny

October 30th, 2009
8:29 am

I think it’s fine, she’s not alone but with a group so I don’t you need to worry about a stranger snatching her…sheesh. Let her have fun and give her a time to be home.

Meme

October 30th, 2009
8:31 am

I teach middle schoolers. Maturity ranges are so wide at the 6th grade level that I would not give a blanket yes or no. This is one of those things that depends on the kid.

RJ

October 30th, 2009
8:41 am

Photius, thanks for the laugh, I needed that! Pansy parents…priceless!

My 11 year old son wants to go this year with some kids in the neighborhood. He can’t wait. Since I only have 2, to see the youngest growing up is hard. Actually, it’s hard with the oldest as well. Regardless of how safe I think my neighborhood is, we get lots of outsiders coming in with their kids; guess my neighbors give out really good candy! Hopefully an older sibling will go with them. That’ll certainly make me feel better. But if not, I’ll just wait for him to come back home, peeking out the window occassionally.

BB

October 30th, 2009
8:41 am

Safety, all the time, not just at Halloween should always be foremost. Do we ignore what is happening to children as someone has said? Or, do we provide the safest environment we can for our children? Taking the “it won’t happen to my child” approach is not only ignorant; it is lack of concern for safety. Each person must make that decision on their own. My children are all grown and have families of their own now. They are adhering to the same ideas of safety with which they were raised. Children are children; call them tweenagers if you wish, they are still our responsibility, and that responsibility should not be taken lightly. It is safety today, or the 11 o’clock news tonight. The choice is yours.

Greg

October 30th, 2009
8:41 am

My kids (14, 12 and 9) still seem to want me to go with them like I have every year. I’m actually trying to convince them they don’t really need me to go. I was going it alone when I was around 10. But, I’m not going to complain if they want me to go. Unfortunately our neighborhood kids are all getting older, so the number of trick or treaters is much less than it used to be when we moved here.

FCM

October 30th, 2009
8:48 am

I think tweenager sound stupid and like your trying to rush your child into a new phase.

” I keep thinking about that little girl from Florida who was just walking home from school middle of the day — ended up dead in a Georgia dump” That child was walking through a area KNOWN to have MULTIPLE SEX OFFENDERS. That child did not deserve that, and there SHOULD have been a parent present to walk the group home.

Keith, I assume that you have made sure their are no sex offenders on the street. Your child knows she must stay in the group and not talk to strangers. I would also let her known that since YOU like to see the kids having fun you and some of YOUR friends will be out in the neighborhood just taking a walk. Your not with her, following her, or spying. Your just walking and your paths may cross.

TechMom

October 30th, 2009
8:53 am

My son is now 14. Mom2alex&max & JATL- I loved it when my son turned about 10, no tears or regret here! I loved it when he started to become more independent and ‘his own person’. Although sometimes I have the urge to shake that ‘own person’ out of him… I did not love, or really even like so much, the toddler and elementary days and as much work as the tween and now teen years are, I would not go back in time if you paid me.

My son started Trick-or-Treating with his friends in our neighborhood in 6th grade (11 years old). We live in the burbs in a self-contained neighborhood so there’s really no chance that he would wander off. We usually all start off together with our family friends who have younger children and then he would meet up with his friends and off they would go. So he knew I was out and about but since I know about 70% of our neighbors by name, he also knows there’s no way he could do anything out of line and get away with it. Before he got a cell phone we set a time to meet up and check-in at a neighbor’s house along the way and then we would decide how much longer to stay out. Last year since he had a cell phone he just had to be home at 9pm.

JJ

October 30th, 2009
8:55 am

I really miss those days…….but in the old ‘hood, we ToT’d with a huge group, we pulled wagons, one with a cooler of beer for the adults, and another for the tired little kids, so they could take a little break. The older kids were allowed to run on ahead, but they had to keep “the group” in their sights. Maybe 4 or 5 houses ahead…..but there were a TON of people out and we knew most of them, so if there were any problems, we all looked out for each other.

This year, there are a handful of kids who will ToT in our current neighborhood. Most of us are planning a “pot luck” in my neighbors driveway, weather permitting…..We plan on making a huge batch of chili, and we are going to fire up the grill, and all the neighbors are bringing something. We will walk around with the 3 little ones for a while, then commence to partying and drinking!!!!

I love Halloween!!!!! I’m glad its on the weekend this year.

Yall be safe, and watch the little ones……

Oh and one thing I CANNOT stand, is the people who follow their kids in the car. Get out and walk with your kids.

We had one lady who drove her kid to each house, pulled up into the driveway, parked her car, and got out with her son and walked up to the door with him. The kid was about 8 years old. They got back in the car, she drove to the next driveway, got out and went to the door with him. We watched her do this down the entire street. Talk about a Helicopter parent……Unbelievable…..

teach1

October 30th, 2009
9:11 am

We used alot of walkie talkies during the transition years. It at least let us check in with her while she was out and if she ran into problems she could call us quickly. We have used the walkies at disney and on cruise ships as well, very handy.

I really wish those people (they can’t be real parents) who think those taking precautions are pansys would grow up. All it would take is for their child to be the one that turns up missing or killed.

Photius

October 30th, 2009
9:15 am

Oh phooey…. Why not just put your kid back in the womb and take him out at college graduation for crying out loud people. I can’t believe these parents. “The Boogy-man is going to get me! Oh heavens no!” Put your kid back in your womb – release upon marriage and then hover….

Michelle

October 30th, 2009
9:15 am

Keith, from what you have said about your daughter and neighborhood, I would think it would be safe to allow her AND her friends to go together. If she were alone, NO WAY! But, you know her and the kids she hangs out with as well as MANY others in the neighborhood. Even though you may not be keeping an eye on her, I’m sure others will be watching out! I would set a time and expect her to be home then!

madmommy

October 30th, 2009
9:26 am

I think we were around 7 or so when we first started going off on our own. We were with friends and had a set amount of time that was had to be home or checked in with my bff’s parents. Those were different times in a small town, so I know that would never happen now. I do think I will allow her to go up and down with her friends as long as I can still see her (at least be on the street with the kids).

Just let them have a bit of freedom and allow them to go out, set a time they need to be back and go from there. If they break the rules, then do what you have to do.

I too HATE the Parents who drive around in cars. What a waste of not only gas and time, but what is the kid getting out trick or treating? Just buy him/her a bag and be done with it. Running around and going with friends is what makes the night fun and magaical to a kid. Trust me, they will sleep so much better after a good run around outside and you’ll feel better knowing they ate a small ton of candy.

BRING BACK RECESS!!!

mom2alex&max

October 30th, 2009
9:26 am

JATL: two boys. I agree. My oldest is 9, so still not quite ready to go on his own. He’s going with a couple of his buddies from our street, but the other moms and I are following at a safe distance. Maybe in a couple of years I can safely stay at the block party and they can go around on their own. I’m FINE FINE FINE with that!

TechMom: right there with you. They say middle school is hell. But I’m looking forward to more independence!!!

New Stepmom

October 30th, 2009
9:27 am

I think she will be safe with a group and that if you know a neighbor on each street to tell your daughter, IF and only IF something does not feel right to go to that neighbor. Otherwise let he go and have fun.

I do not think you can compare some of the kidnappings to ToT. First of all, that child was alone. Second of all she was in a bad area, and third of all there were likely no other groups out and about. Halloween seems like the perfect time for the first taste of freedom because there will be so many groups of folks out on the streets…

mom2alex&max

October 30th, 2009
9:29 am

madmommy: I don’t open the door to anyone who pulls up in their car on Halloween night.

Lisa

October 30th, 2009
10:00 am

You parents who are ready to get rid of your kids should of never had them!! My daughter is 13 and I hate that she is going out tomorrow night with her friends. We have a good neighborhood but who doesnt’ (knock on wood). Monsters love those kind of neighborhoods (knock on wood again). But, I realize she has to go with her friends but, I will be around the corner with my younger one. I am in absolutely no rush to let my children go even though I know they will someday. I CHERISH them and if I can keep them with me forever I would. Thats called loving your kids but knowing they have to go one day makes me so sad to not see my 2 best friends next to my husband every day! My 13 year will old be in college in 4 years and all I can do is treasure every moment of her every day. Because I know one day I sure am going to miss her doing ballet around the house and her singing at top of her lungs!! The house sure will be quiet. Treasure every moment parents!!

lmno

October 30th, 2009
10:03 am

Keith is a woman?

hmm, i didn’t know that.

Anyway, unless you live in a dangerous area, 12 years old is plenty old enough to go with friends. Just tell your kid what time you expect them home and tell them if they aren’t there by then, you will make it a point to come out to where they are in hair rollers and that green stuff on your face and embarass them in front of their friends.

teach1

October 30th, 2009
10:07 am

Well we hang out in our cual de sac all night. Some folks bring a trailer full of kids and hay bales and give rides. Others are just looking for a street where there is more than one house giving out candy. It used to be everyone handed out but nowadays you are lucky if 2 or 3 on a street hand something out. That means travelling further and not as safe and hence more cars. We love all the folks and at any given time there may be 40 or more parents, teens, and younger talking and laughing and just having a great time near by.

Kelly

October 30th, 2009
10:11 am

@madmommy Parents who drive around also are the ones teaching their kids to be lazy and overweight.

I think the tweenager will be fine. Let her go and enjoy herself.

DB

October 30th, 2009
10:16 am

@BB: “Taking the “it won’t happen to my child” approach is not only ignorant; it is lack of concern for safety.” NO ONE, and especially the participants on this blog, takes their child’s safety for granted.

But at some point — you have to let go, if you’re going to have a healthy, well-adjusted kid. If most parents wait until it is “comfortable” to do so, then most kids would be married before the parents finally let go (if then!). It IS uncomfortable. It’s anxiety-producing. It keeps you up sleepless through the teen years, trying to walk that very thin line between giving them practice at independence and clutching them to you and trying to keep them safe from the world.

I was talking with a friend this week, and she was telling me something that had impressed her greatly at a parent’s drug awareness meeting. (Yeah, it’s a stretch from Halloween to drugs, but stay with me for a second.) The moderator had made the point that kids NEED to make social mistakes and learn how to deal with discomfort. Often, kids turn to alcohol in social situations because they are shy/uncomfortable/etc. and the alcohol acts as a social lubricant, and as a result, they never learn to “deal” with social awkwardness without a crutch.

The point is: Kids have to PRACTICE at being self-sufficient, at working through new situations, before they can do it successfully and consistently as older teens/young adults. Role-playing and lecturing is a start, but don’t kid yourself into thinking it will take the place of life experience. Practice means getting down and dirty themselves, making age- and situation-appropriate mistakes.

Yes, there is evil in the world. This is not new. It was there when we were kids, it was there when our parents were kids. But to live in fear of evil gives evil power over our lives and diminishes us.

Becky

October 30th, 2009
10:17 am

My two aren’t old enough to go out alone (7)..My parents never had to worry about us being alone as I had lots of older siblings to go with..If you know most all of your neighbors, I wouldn’t have a problem letting her go..Of course, I wouldn’t worry so much about her being kidnapped as much as I would be concerned about older kids snatching the candy bag away from the smaller ones..

@Lisa, I don’t think anyone said that they are ready to get rid of their kids..It is great seeing your kids grow and sprout wings, but it’s also sad to see them grow up so fast too..Its that double edged knife..Good on one side, bad on the other..

Hope all that are out, have a very safe and happy time..

mom2alex&max

October 30th, 2009
10:19 am

Lisa: my children are not my best friends. I love them, I enjoy them, I cherish them. I teach them, I parent them, I discipline them. They are not my friends.

I am FINE with them growing up. It’s what they are supposed to do. I sacrificed a lot to have them and to parent them, but they are not my whole life. I have other interests, enjoyments, pleasures and passions that have nothing to do with them and I am FINE with the fact that some day, if I do my job right, they’ll be out have their own lives too.

teach1

October 30th, 2009
10:22 am

DB love your post. It is right on target. It is hard to let go and still keep them safe. I think the walkie talkie and cell phones give us a little more comfort but in reality they do little good. The world is harsh, as a parent it is your job to protect your child and yet teach them how to mature and become independent – the hardest job on the planet if done correctly.

I would rather be safe than sorry and the flippant let em go is just irresponsible.

Theresa Walsh Giarrusso

October 30th, 2009
10:22 am

I like that walkie talkie idea — that’s a good one!!

JJ

October 30th, 2009
10:28 am

My child is NOT my best friend either, nor am I her best friend. I am her MOTHER……we have a great relationship and we are very close, but I am NOT her friend.

I loved raising my child, but now she is on her own. I am proud of her and I admire her decision making. She doesn’t not hang out with “bad” kids who cannot make good decisions.

She is flexing her wings…..I gave her roots, now she has to spread those wings and fly……..

JJ

October 30th, 2009
10:28 am

Oops……she doesn’t hang out…..(I added an extra “not”)….

Jesse's Girl

October 30th, 2009
10:33 am

Our oldest is away from the family for the 1st time during a major holiday:( She is on a school weekend trip with the 7th and 8th grade gifted program. So…while she is with teachers…its still kind of like she’s on her own a bit. She was beside herself with excitement!!! And that made it super-cool for me. I miss her…terribly. However, I know she needs things like this to help ready her for when bigger events come around. I would let my 11 year old daughter go through our neighborhood with a group of girls. They all have cell phones and most of the yards have parents sitting in chairs throwing candy at the kids anyway…so I think they’d be safe:) I am very aware of being too sheltering to my children….I NEED them to be self sufficient and able to take care of things. ISn’t that what every good parent wants?

Lisa

October 30th, 2009
10:33 am

mom2alex&max – Wow you sound so sad! My kids are my friends but yet I discipline them, teach them morales and how to have respect! If anything their friends think I am the most strictest parent. I have my own very busy life and they do to but I cheerish every momemt they are around because time goes to fast. Just like the song says “Your gonna miss this one day” .

Jesse's Girl

October 30th, 2009
10:36 am

OOOhhhh…do not get me stared on parents being their kids “buddies”. That is a huge mistake! They need you to be an anchor…a soft (or hard if need be) place to fall…..NOT THEIR FRIEND!!!!

mom2alex&max

October 30th, 2009
10:37 am

Lisa: that’s the point, I am not sad at all. I am happy. Every milestone they reach means I have done my job.

Tig

October 30th, 2009
10:55 am

As long as you feel your daughter is mature enough and that she and her friends can be trusted and that the neighborhood is reasonable safe, I can’t see anything wrong with letting her walk with her friends.

Then again, I’m also in the minority that doesn’t mind high school kids ringing my doorbell on halloween…as long as they’re dressed for halloween in an actual costume and not just something thrown on. I’ve seen some great originality in older teens’ costumes and if they’re being respectful about it I don’t mind giving out candy to them.

Becky

October 30th, 2009
11:14 am

@Tig..I also don’t mind the “bigger” kids either..What I can’t stand are the older kids that don’t bother to say Trick or Treat, they just stand there and expect you to give them candy..NOT..I don’t have a problem with the little ones that don’t say it..

DB

October 30th, 2009
11:46 am

@Lisa: You’re gonna break your arm, patting yourself on the back so hard, honey. “You parents who are ready to get rid of your kids should of never had them!!” You misunderstand. These are parents who celebrate their child’s milestones, and don’t meet each one with dread that they are “growing up” and “growing away”. I was never one that cried at kindergarten, agonized over the driver’s license, sweated the first date, or cried buckets at high school graduation. I SMILED and celebrated, because it meant that I had done my job well. It’s not a case of shoving them out the door, it’s satisfaction for doing a hard job well.

I’ve done the hardest part of my job, at this point. I’ve navigated the toddler years, the childhood and teenage years. They are at college, and on their own, hopefully making mostly good choices and learning from the not-so-good ones :-) I’m now in the position of “life coach”, not “parent.” Do I miss ‘em? Sure I do, every day. But that’s the way it’s SUPPOSED to be. I looked forward to their milestones as much as they did — not because I was anxious to get rid of them, but because of their excitement and pride when they reached it. Sharing that excitement and pride is one of the privileges of parenthood, IMHO.

JJ

October 30th, 2009
12:15 pm

Tig

October 30th, 2009
12:24 pm

@Becky

Ditto :)

catlady

October 30th, 2009
12:28 pm

I guess my take on it is different. I think Trick or Treating is for children younger than middle school. I have seen the havoc that (nice) older children can cause when the run in a pack on Halloween.

Let your middle schoolers grow up and do age-appropriate activities (supervised social sorts of things) rather than activities appropriate for little kids.

Stan

October 30th, 2009
12:29 pm

Woohoo! I’m dressing up and going ToTing @ Tig’s and Becky’s!

;)

JJ

October 30th, 2009
12:35 pm

Stan, wait for me……I gotta go find a costume…..

FCM

October 30th, 2009
12:40 pm

“see my 2 best friends next to my husband every day!” WTH???? Your children are not there to be your best friends.

FCM

October 30th, 2009
12:50 pm

Stan, I think Hunter of MILF might go too!