As parents, we want our children to have all the fun they deserve on Halloween, and this goes for kids of all ages, but especially our teens who now may be able to drive and thus venture many miles from our protection on Halloween night. Let’s make this year’s trick-or-treat night scary safe for teens by paying attention to the following precautions and tips.
Have a Talk With Teens and Reinforce Family Rules About Drinking
As part of the frequent discussions parents should be having with their children about what’s approved and not-approved behavior, now is a good time to sit down and have another talk about family rules. Specifically, talk about how Halloween seems to be a time when many teens feel emboldened and want to experiment a bit with drinking or drugs at various parties they’re invited to. While you’ve most likely already let your teens know that drinking and drug use are not permitted in the family, it certainly helps to reinforce the rules, and the consequences for disobeying them, about drinking and drug use. It isn’t that our children forget what we tell them, necessarily, but if time goes by and parental rules aren’t revisited, teens may think that they’re old enough to do what they want or that they’re perfectly capable of a little experimentation. Think of it this way: It’s much better to revisit this discussion on a regular basis than to let it slide and have a situation occur that could have very well been prevented.
Plan Activities in Advance
The ideal solution to knowing where your teens are this Halloween would be to host a teen costume party at your home or in conjunction with the parents of your child’s friends. If that isn’t feasible, however, you should at least make it abundantly clear that you want to know exactly where your teen is planning to go for the evening. In addition, since not all Halloween parties occur on the actual date of October 31, make sure that you’re well-informed about who is holding a celebration, what adults or parents will be there, and advise your teens that you will expect them to be home at a specified time.
Get To Know Your Teen’s Friends
As every parent knows, the teenage years are filled with many surprises. Emotions run the gamut as hormones rage and the first blush of a crush makes our children giddy with excitement. Often, even in the most close-knit of families, our teenagers tend to become secretive about their friends. It may be that their interests are changing or they’ve met new friends at different activities at school or elsewhere. Along with our other responsibilities, being a good parent also means that we pay attention to who our children hang out with. If we notice that our child’s former friends aren’t coming around anymore, there may be a reason for this that we should know about. Casually ask about what’s going on with so-and-so and if your son or daughter will be going to the annual Halloween party that that friend’s parents is hosting this year, or some other mention that will get the conversation going. Sometimes our children take up friendships with teens we really don’t care for much. If these teenage boys and girls are disrespectful, doing poorly in school, come from a broken home or have had problems or a family history with drugs or alcohol, this is all the more reason to sit down and have a heart-to-heart talk with our teen about who he or she is spending time with. Don’t be afraid to let teens know that certain behavior is off-limits, and that extends to having friends over who use drugs or alcohol. Getting to know your teen’s friends doesn’t mean you have to be best buddies with all of them, just that you are well-acquainted with them, have met and know their parents, and generally approve of the friendship.
Limit Number of Friends in the Car
Traffic crashes are the leading cause of death for people ages 15 to 20. If you allow your teen to drive on Halloween, be sure to remind your son or daughter of the limits on passengers in the vehicle. Know your state’s laws on restricted nighttime driving as well as the limits on number of passengers permitted. In some states, such as Illinois, the number of passengers for a new driver is limited to only one passenger for the first full year of his or her driver’s license, or until the license holder turns 18, whichever occurs first. Illinois also imposes a driver’s license suspension for anyone under the age of 21 found guilty or granted court supervision for alcohol consumption, possession, purchase or receipt of alcohol convictions, whether or not a vehicle was involved. Suspensions range from three months for court supervision, six months for first conviction, 12 months for a second conviction, and revocation of driving privileges for a third or subsequent conviction. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) has a convenient table showing young driver licensing systems in the U.S. that can prove handy as a refresher. If your teen will be attending a Halloween party that you approve of, offer to be the shuttle driver for your teen and some of his or her friends. This way, you’ll know how your teen is getting to the party and home again.
Make Halloween a Family Affair
Another way many families get around the whole partying on Halloween aspect of teen behavior is to have teens involved in trick-or-treating at home. Dressing up in costume and accompanying younger siblings on the annual trek around the neighborhood begging for candy can be a lot of fun. One of the parents can also be part of the activity. Some of the most memorable family moments can be captured on film or video, to be shared for years afterward. Your teen may think this is silly now, or that it’s something that he or she has outgrown, but Halloween does tend to bring out the creativity in most young people. Your teen might grumble about being sentenced to kid-chaperoning duty, but secretly, he or she may really enjoy it. At any rate, you’ll be doing something constructive about Halloween and helping keep the evening scary safe for teens this year. Boo! And have a great time.