When are kids too old to collect candy on Halloween? In this Verywell Family article, Mindpath Health’s Zishan Khan, MD, discusses whether youths can stil participate in this sweet tradition.
Are kids only allowed to be kids under the age of 14, especially when it comes to trick-or-treating? A push to codify Halloween trick-or-treating laws seems to indicate so, as Chesapeake, VA passed in 2019. A recent YouGovAmerica survey asked when a child is too old to trick-or-treat. Forty-one percent of respondents between the ages of 18-29 “say children or teens should never be considered too old to go trick-or-treating.”
Is It OK for Teenagers to Trick-or-Treat?
From parents to experts, educators to kids, the answer to this question is a resounding “yes!”
“In fact [trick-or-treating] in certain situations may actually be better than other options teens have available to occupy their Halloween night,” says Zishan Khan, MD, a psychiatrist with Mindpath Health. “Halloween can be a time for people to express themselves more freely.”
“It’s harmless. If they’re out trick-or-treating, they’re not partying or getting involved with pranks that could lead to trouble. They’re doing exactly what we want them to do…be kids,” adds Katie Parker-Riccio, a former high school teacher.
Holly Haeseler, a writer who has three teens, says her kids have always loved trick-or-treating. She says she would “literally never tell [her] kids they could no longer trick or treat.” Haeseler’s 18-year-old Willa says she still loves the candy, adding “I’m going to do it as long as I can.”
The consensus seems to be that urging kids to stop taking part in this holiday tradition can actually do more harm than good — kids should be allowed to be kids. This goes especially for teens, who are always in such a hurry to grow up.
In fact, Dr. Khan explains that trick-or-treating may keep teens and tweens out of trouble. When not trick-or-treating, teens “may end up at parties where they may be exposed to alcohol or drugs or turn to mischievous behaviors, such as egging houses, toilet papering homes, stealing candy from kids, and smashing pumpkins or participating in other forms of destruction of property.”
Halloween Creativity and Socialization for Teenagers
Halloween isn’t only about candy. It’s also a chance for teenagers to get creative and show a different side of themselves, whether in how they dress or how they do their makeup.3
“Being able to decorate their homes and think of creative ways to dress up can be very liberating for kids. It is also a way for a teenager to experience the nostalgia that is associated with trick or treating,” Dr. Khan says. “As they grow older, teens can use this as a chance to make similar memories with their friends or their younger siblings.”
Socially, trick-or-treating can be a wonderful experience for more introverted kids or kids with developmental disabilities.
Juli Henderson, the owner of In Our Arms Blog, had a son, Robert, who passed at 18 years old due to a rare mitochondrial disorder. Despite Robert’s disabilities, Henderson spoke about Halloween and trick-or-treating as an incredibly creative and social opportunity for him.
“For him to see Halloween decorations in our home and in our community excited him and lifted his spirits,” she explains. “It brought him so much joy especially because his cognitive ability was limited to a 2 or 3-year-old child. Inside his growing teenage body was a great capacity for enjoyment of all things involving costumes.”
Halloween and trick-or-treating may look like fun and games, but it can be an inclusive event for kids who lack as large of a social network as some. “Those who are usually shy and uncomfortable around others due to feeling different and fearing they won’t be accepted for their personal interests or how they choose to dress can find that this night provides them an opportunity to come out of their shell and be themselves,” Dr. Khan says.
Haeseler agrees. One of her children is on the autism spectrum and trick-or-treating has been especially helpful for them—and a way for her family to meet their neighbors. Haeseler’s daughter Willa agrees. “It helps me to connect to others in a tasty way.”
Why Teens are Shunned for Trick-or-Treating
Dr. Kahn is emphatic about his answer. “Easy, teenagers should stop trick-or-treating when they choose to stop trick-or-treating.”
Teens, he explains, should not be made to feel ashamed of their fun traditions especially if they aren’t hurting anyone. Nor is trick-or-treating “immature.” In fact, it can be a fun way to access their childhood memories as a maturing person.
“Having interests that traditionally children tend to find enjoyable doesn’t mean someone lacks maturity or is unwilling to grow up,” Dr. Khan explains. “As long as it isn’t endangering anyone, there is nothing wrong with not conforming to what society believes is age-appropriate behavior.”
What Age Should My Teen Stop Trick-or-Treating?
As parents, we want our tweens and teens to experience the joys of Halloween—and that means trick-or-treating! Teenagers who want to put on a costume should be allowed and even encouraged to be kids as long as possible…and to enjoy their candy while they can. Conversations around when a teen should stop trick-or-treating should come from the teen themselves. But make sure they know it’s not “immature” to want to keep up their traditions.
Read the full Verywell Family article with sources.
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