By Heidi Stevens, Tribune Newspapers
October 18, 2011
Q: Your high-schooler wants to trick-or-treat. Isn't this just an excuse to egg people's houses in a costume?
(from our panel of staff contributors)
This is a total trust call on the part of the parent and your teen's track record with you, and the group he intends to go with. (At this point, you will likely know who the trouble magnets are.) If you have made trips to bail him out of the local hoosegow, you probably will want to impose restrictions — like "Yes, dear, you may trick or treat, but I'm dressing up like Lady Gaga and coming with you." But if he has shown that he can follow the rules and meet your expectations, I say let him go.
— Denise Joyce
Sixteen is too old. By the time you're 16, going door-to-door in disguise isn't cute or adorable — it's vaguely threatening, and the neighbors will resent your kid's participation even if they might not say so. If your kid really wants to get into the Halloween spirit, let him or her put on a scary costume and take charge of candy distribution at your house. Or if there are younger kids in the house, or next door, let your teen be the costumed chaperon for the little ones. Without taking any candy.
— Phil Vettel
It may be an excuse to egg houses in costume. Or it may be an excuse to hang safely with pals and score some free candy. Do you really want to quash the latter in fear of the former?
"Parents sometimes forget to teach their kids to retain a fun and playful spirit throughout life," says clinical psychologist Barbara R. Greenburg, co-author of "Teenage as a Second Language" (Adams Media). "We send them the message that growing older is not fun, and that's not a good message to send."
Holidays, in particular, are a good time to remind kids — of all ages — about the importance of injecting fun and free-spiritedness in life, argues Greenburg, who also blogs at talkingteenage.com.
"It's a magical time," she says. "Let them celebrate."
Of course, if your teen has a history that gives you reason to believe he's more egg-minded than candy-minded, you'll need to set some parameters.
"He has to be home at a certain time, you have to know what neighborhood he's going to be in, he has to check in with you at a specific time in order to be allowed to go," Greenburg suggests. "You should have some ground rules."
But if you're relying largely on your imagination to conjure the evening's events, cut your kid some slack.
"What happens a lot during the teen years is kids communicate less with their parents, and the parents have less idea what's going on with them," says Greenburg. "The less information, the more likely you are to make negative assumptions."
In their defense, she says, parents are most often operating from a place of protectiveness and love.
"It's a fear that the worst might happen," she says, "rather than an assumption that kids are he-devils or she-devils."
Ideally, you can balance the desire to protect with the desire to raise a well-adjusted kid.
"We need to teach teens there's a time for seriousness and a time for fun, and this really ties into teaching kids about the importance of balance in life," Greenburg says. "People who do the best in life have the ability to work and play, and a resiliency skill that helps them skip through their days more easily."Got a solution?
You witnessed your 6-year-old shunning a new kid at the park. What's an appropriate response? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Find "The Parent 'Hood" page on Facebook, where you can post your parenting questions and offer tips and solutions for others to try.
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