Letting our kids roam the streets at night is not something we generally allow, that is, except on Halloween. It’s a holiday that’s made for a bit of rowdy fun. When kids are young, it’s easy. You simply go with them around a block or two and call it a night. It’s the later elementary years when things can get a little spooky—letting them go off on their own with their friends. If you are not quite comfortable with that, here are some tips to keep the night safe and focused on fun—rather than on dangers that could be lurking around the next corner.
- Costume check
Encourage your kids to choose a costume that doesn’t set them up for trips or falls. Wearing long capes or gowns can mean tripping over a bump in the sidewalk, as can masks. Forego awkward or non-flexible props. Help make them more visible by putting reflective tape on the back of their costume, or insist they carry a flashlight or glow stick to enhance visibility.
“The most common Halloween-related accidents we see are trips and falls, usually associated with inappropriate costumes that are too long or awkward, or poor vision due to dark streets and no flashlight,” said Leslie Day-Jensen, Emergency Department Manager for Prowers Medical Center.
Day-Jensen reminds parents to pin up costumes that are too long, insist on sturdy, slip-resistant shoes, and require kids to stay in neighborhoods that they know. Parents should accompany younger kids even in their own neighborhood. She also reminds adults to be extra aware while driving to avoid darting kids and to be extra cautious on dark backstreets.
- Review safety rules
It may have been a few years since you’ve told your older child to look twice before crossing the road, but it’s okay to do it on Halloween night. According to SafeKids Worldwide, twice as many kids are killed while out and about on Halloween than any other night of the year. Remind them of the buddy system—stick together—and to stay on well-lit streets—that means no cutting through alleys, empty lots, fields and lawns. Remind them to stay on the sidewalk (no walking in the street!), cross at the corners or at lights, and watch for cars backing out of driveways.
Reinforce the stranger danger concept on Halloween night and request that they don’t visit homes without the porchlight on, or step inside a home. Remind kids to never accept a ride, even if they recognize the driver as an acquaintance or neighbor. It’s smart to role play different situations they might encounter. You might get an eye roll, but doing so gives them instant language to use in tight situations. For safety sake, send along a school ID or an ID card with your emergency number on it.
“Talk about safety with candy and have your kids only accept wrapped or packaged candy, then make it a rule that you check the candy before they start eating it,” Day-Jensen added.
Have them wait to eat their loot until they can get home and dump it out for you to inspect. Any opened candy should be thrown out immediately.
- Leave your pooch at home
If you are taking your kids out, resist the urge to bring Fido along, no matter how well behaved a dog he is. Crowds, doorbells and dark figures can surprise even the mellowest dog, and dogs have been known to get loose and lost on Halloween night.
- Give young teens a break
When answering your door, try not to judge if you see a group of kids who look a tad too old to be trick or treating. It’s a hard age—in between child and adult—and there’s no night quite as fun to revert to being a child as Halloween. Finally, don’t assume that just because a child is tall they are a teen. Some elementary-aged kids can reach six feet.
- Throw a party
If it’s all too overwhelming, consider hosting a Halloween party. Let your kids come up with the ideas, and go all in. You can even make it an after party to assure trick or treating doesn’t run too late.
It’s common for parents to feel some fear on Halloween night. Lessen your worries by getting in key safety messages before they head out the door.