In most areas in the US, it is traditional for children to go trick-or-treating on the evening of Halloween (October 31st). This means that they put on a costume and go door to door asking for candy.
If you put up Halloween decorations, or you have your…
Many of my older special education teens like to dress up and go trick or treating. They sometimes get refused or hasdassed for being too old, despite being like “children” in many ways.
I also know of teenagers who go “trick-or-treating” just for free candy, knowing it is not really for them. I have seen some of these older youth be rude to the younger children by pushing past them, cutting them off and scaring them.
Here is what I do:
If the trick-or-treater is dressed in costume and following norms like taking turns and watching for smaller people, I do not address their age and treat them as you would the other kids. (Don’t say, “You’re too old for this.”)
If they are dressed up but not following norms, I take make them wait a bit and tell them that because they are bigger then other people out they need to be extra careful around the smaller people because we want everyone to have fun. If they are resceptive and understand, I give them candy and tell them to have fun. (I do this if I witness little ones being rude as well, with a shorter and different talk)
The only time I ask how old they are is if they are not in costume and not following norms. I may not give these teens candy depending on how the conversation turns out. However, as an educator and youth worker, I am comfortable having these conversations.
I guess I would want others to know that even if a person looks “too old” they may be developmently delayed or large for thier age. I don’t believe this things disclude them from participating.
In my neighborhood there actually weren’t a lot of kids of trick-or-treating age at the time I was of trick-or-treating age. What we did have was a neighbor whose mother was from another country (I believe it was either Sweden or Switzerland, but my memory is fuzzy) and who had never been. So they dressed her up as Big Bird and took her trick-or-treating, and it was awesome.
As far as older teenagers who really should know better, something that often happened in my experience was for them to be “in costume” in a really inappropriate way while trick-or-treating - “pimp and hooker” seemed to be a perennial favorite. That’s one where I WOULD (at least sorely be tempted to) say that they’re too old for this.
Do you know a good way of reacting to teenagers who do that?
A script that I’ve used in the past and that I’d feel ok hearing when I’m out as a 19 year old this year is as follows:
“Trick or treating is basically a trade, you come to my door in costume and behaving in a family friendly way, I give you candy. You aren’t holding up your end of that unspoken deal by [being rude to the children/wearing a costume that isn’t family friendly/not wearing a costume/etc] so maybe come back when you’re doing so.”
I found that it worked, most teens didn’t come back but a few did. I think it works because it assumed maturity instead of assuming that they were being “bad” in any way by still wanting to trick or treat. Halloween is hard when you’re too old to really trick or treat but too young to do anything else.