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Bend Your Candy not Your Safety Rules
by Paula Statman, M.S.S.W., www.kidwisecorner.com
For many children Halloween is the most exciting night of the year. Imagine what it means to kids today who are raised to be cautious about strangers. On this magical night, not only can they accept candy from strangers, they can ask them for candy!

It is natural to want our kids to enjoy the same freedom we had. But these days it's better to bend your candy rules for a night than to set aside personal safety practices. Good safety is part of the privilege of trick or treating without adult supervision.

Here are some guidelines to use with grade school and middle school age children who will be going out on their own:

  1. Prior to Halloween, make some rules and get your child's commitment to follow them.

    Some examples:

    • "Follow the designated, pre-approved route." Everyone should know the route and your kids should agree to stay on it. If you need to find them in a hurry, you want to know exactly where to look.

    • "Cross only in the cross walks." Give them flashlights, make sure their costumes can be seen at night and remind them to watch for cars.

    • "Do not go inside people's homes; stay in open doorways." Sometimes people invite children in. Tell your kids to say that they want to stay on the doorstep.

    • "Bring your candy home untouched." You will check it before they eat it. Toss out unwrapped candy, open boxes or any treat that looks suspicious.

    If you aren't sure your children will follow these rules, you can set up check points by phone. Give your children a cell phone and let them know you will be checking in at agreed upon intervals.

    Another alternative if you are uneasy about your children going out unsupervised is to postpone the privilege another year. Give them more time to develop responsible behavior. Tell them you will walk behind them or across the street and will be discreet.

  2. Make sure they can handle whatever or whomever they encounter.

    Before you decide it's OK to let your kids go out on their own, have some "What if?" discussions to find out if they are willing and able to make safe decisions when unsupervised.

    • What would you do if some bigger and older kids took your candy?
    • What would you do if somebody dared you to smash a jack-o-lantern?
    • What would you do if someone told you that the best house for candy was off the route we agreed on?

    People are friendlier on Halloween but the same rules about strangers apply. Tell your kids that if anyone acts too friendly or familiar - with offers of candy or a ride to a 'really cool house that has the best treats in town' or asks where they live - they need to get away and tell an adult that someone is bothering them. Tell them they can ask for help at any house that is welcoming trick or treaters.

  3. Send your child out with at least 2 buddies.

    Older kids like to travel in packs on Halloween night. Your job is to find out who is in the pack before you say yes. You have some say in your child's choices.

    For example, you have the right and responsibility to veto a trick or treat partner who has had run-ins with the police on Halloween, has bullied younger children or has vandalized homes. You need to know if your child is with a group who will egg each other on or will egg peoples' houses.

    Also, the later it gets, the more dares kids take. Set a curfew to reduce the risk of your child's involvement in behavior that may land him or her in trouble.

Finally, as you review the rules for Halloween night remember this: share useful safety tips in a helpful not fearful way. The ghosts and witches walking down the sidewalk are scary enough.

About the Author:
Paula Statman, M.S.S.W. is an internationally respected educator, speaker and award-winning author. Her practical, positive approach to raising safe and strong children has benefited hundreds of thousands of parents. Paula is a repeat guest on Oprah and the Today Show, has appeared on over 200 radio and television programs, and is featured in publications such as Parents, Child, Redbook, and USA Today.com. The founder and director KidWISE Institute, Paula lives in Oakland, California with her husband and daughter. For more information visit www.kidwisecorner.com.

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