How Old is Too Old for Trick-or-Treating?

This article originally appeared in Macaroni Kid on Oct 10, 2017 by Mary Gagnon, LMFT; Health Affiliates Maine

Question: I have a thirteen-year-old son. He brought up his desire to go trick-or-treating with friends this year. My husband immediately jumped in to say he is far too old to go trick-or-treating. I disagree. I think kids grow up too fast and should enjoy the pleasures of childhood while they can. My husband thinks the idea is immature and not healthy for a kid his age. I know adults that still enjoy dressing up in costumes and they aren’t immature. Is it wrong for us to allow our son to trick or treat?

Answer: It’s not really a question of right or wrong, but rather a question of perspective. While you value the playfulness of childhood, your husband may see your son as a person who is working on becoming an adult and leaving childhood behind. Developmentally, your son is straddling the two worlds of childhood and adulthood, and sometimes he may want to do things that are considered more “childish,” and other times he may assert himself as if he is already an adult. It can be a confusing time for adolescents and parents alike!

Why does he want to go trick-or-treating? Is it dressing up, getting candy, the independence of being with his friends, or something else that is appealing? Knowing why he’d like to go may help you and your husband understand his point of view and come up with a solution that feels right for all of you. 

There’s no age at which a person is no longer allowed to go trick-or-treating, although in our culture it is frowned upon more and more as a child gets older. Some adults may see an adolescent trick-or-treating as “not acting their age,” while others may be concerned about greediness or the possibility that the adolescents are out to cause mischief or trouble of some sort. If, after discussing it with your husband, you allow your son to go trick-or-treating, make sure he understands the rules you set (such as curfew, neighborhoods he can go to, and trick-or-treating “etiquette”) and some of the possible reactions he may receive at the neighbors’ doors and how he should respond. 

Happy Halloween!

Mary Gagnon, LMFT is a professional marriage and family therapist and the Training and Clinical Development Specialist at Health Affiliates Maine, a mental health and substance abuse treatment agency serving adults, adolescents, children, and families. For more information or if you or someone you know needs help, call us at 877-888-4304 or visit our website and click on “Referrals.”

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