The year my son turned 13, he debated right up to the last second whether to go trick-or-treating. When he appeared that night, dressed in black, and announced that he and some buddies were going to hit the streets, I balked.
“You have to have a costume if you’re going out,” I said.
“But I’m going as a shadow,” he protested.
“Not good enough!” I said.
Should big kids go out for Halloween? “It’s really up to them,” says Pat Danaher. With her two daughters, it depends on what their friends are doing. Mackenzie, 13, didn’t go out last year, but she did attend an afternoon school dance in her saloon girl costume and on the big night, she handed out candy. Her mom also made sure to buy some of her favourite treats.
When Hart Slater Eddy was in grade eight, he decided at the 11th hour to go out with his friends as a “boy carrying around a coconut.” His mom, Charmaine, says, “the self-conscious irony of his ‘costume’ gave him the opportunity to go out and get candy with his friends, but to do so without taking too seriously what is really a ritual for younger kids.”
Costume ideas that are witty, irreverent or ironic appeal to kids this age — for example, a ghost cheerleader, zombie rock star or cereal killer (cereal boxes with cardboard daggers and a lot of gore).
If there’s a party at your house, a few scary movies and some creepy decorations will set the mood. Your child might like to help whip up some ghoulish grub: ectoplasm (runny Jell-O), dead man’s fingers (shortbread cookies with almond fingernails) or witches’ brew, where each kid brings a can of pop to pour into a punch bowl.
Big kids might also like to accompany younger siblings or friends on their rounds, which makes it possible for them to participate in a more grown-up way.
Reverse trick-or-treating is becoming more common in Canadian cities. Trick or Eat is a national campaign organized by the organization Meal Exchange, in which high school and university students collect food for local social service agencies (mealexchange.com and click on Get Involved! for information).
If your tween or teen does go out, be sure to get the camera. This could be her last Halloween hurrah — a milestone you don’t want to miss.
Here are some tips for tween and teen trick-or-treaters:
• Banging on doors when the lights are out and the jack-o’-lantern has been extinguished may annoy parents who are trying to get young children to bed.
• Pranks are not OK. Smashing pumpkins may seem harmless, but the little kids who find their jack-o’-lantern flattened on the roadway the next morning are likely to be upset.
• Set a good example for younger monsters; don’t rush the door or trample through people’s gardens, and remember to say thanks!
This article was originally published in September 2010.