The Teen Doctor

Answers to your questions about adolescents

I'm Afraid that My Teen is Too Old to Trick-or-Treat

My teen wants to go trick-or-treating.

Dear Dr. G.,

I am the mother of four. My kids ages vary in range from 6-17. I'm often confused about what is age-appropriate and what might be considered too mature or immature for my kids. You would think that I'd have all the answers by now given that I have so much experience but instead I sometimes get even more confused than parents with one or two kids.

You see, the younger kids want the same privileges as the older kids. The older kids tell me that I give the younger kids too much attention. And, sometimes the older ones want what the younger ones get in terms of types of gifts,etc.

Here is my current dilemma. My oldest child, a 17 year old girl, who I'll call Candy because it fits the theme of my dilemma, wants to go trick-or-treating. I stopped going trick-or-treating when I was about 12. My husband believes that she is too old for this type of activity and wants her to stay home and hand out candy at the door. You see, my daughter Candy, has always been reluctant to give up her childhood activities. She played with her dolls until she was twelve. She still has a sticker collection. And, on more than one occasion, I have seen her re-arranging the furniture in her little sister's doll house.

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I want to make it clear that my daughter has friends her own age. They are a nice group of kids from what I can tell but one never truly knows, right? My daughter is totally opposed to drinking and drugs and appears to make good and safe decisions. She is not teased by her peer group for being immature or for any other reason for that matter-at least not yet. By the way, her friends have decided that they are too old to wear costumes and go trick-or-treating.

Here is my question. When does a teen become too old to trick-or-treat? Is there a specific age at which this activity is simply no longer appropriate? I don't want my daughter to be seen as silly or babyish.

A Mixed-Up Mom

Dear Mixed-Up Mom,

First, let me say that being a parent is the most perplexing job there is. I certainly understand that it must be exponentially harder when you are trying to make the best decisions for not only four kids but for four kids of such different ages. I admire the thoughtfulness that you seem to bring to child-rearing.

Regarding Halloween-These are my thoughts:

1.I believe that Halloween is a fun and magical holiday and that teens should be allowed to celebrate it by trick-or-treating for as long as they like.
Not everyone agrees with me. In fact, some cities have banned trick-or treating for kids over twelve because people report being frightened of tall and large kids in costumes. I say BAH-HUMBUG to them.

2. I am concerned that too frequently parents give their kids the message that growing older is all about being serious to the exclusion of having fun. This concerns me. Why would anyone want to grow up if growing up appears to be no fun?

3. The most resilient adults are the ones who know when to be serious and also know when to play. Being playful is a quality that helps us all get through many of life's more difficult moments. I encourage parents to not only support this quality in their kids but also to model it for them.

My answer to you is to not only say YES to your daughter but also encourage her to be safe and have fun. And, it sure will be fun to see what she dresses up as this year. Make sure to take lots of photos for her to look back on.

Happy Halloween!
Dr.G.

 

Barbara Greenberg, Ph.D., is a clinical psychologist who specializes in the treatment of adolescents and their well-intentioned but exhausted parents.

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