It's nearly Halloween, and odds are, you've got more than a few questions—particularly if you're a parent. Should you DIY your kids' costumes or go the store-bought route? Which cupcake recipes should you whip up for your annual Halloween party? Is it worth investing in a few new Halloween decorations—and are homemade Halloween treats really worth it?
But if there's one question that comes up more than any other for parents of older kids, it's this: How old is too old to trick-or-treat?
There's no official answer, of course—which is probably why "What age should you stop trick-or-treating at?" is one of the most oft-Googled queries around this time of year. After all, even if you're able to define the yearly activity as a "just-for-kids thing," you'll have to answer another question: What defines "kid," anyway? Are teens kids? How about tweens? Can moms and dads trick-or-treat?
We turned to etiquette expert and writer Catherine Newman for some advice.
"I begrudge teenagers nothing," says Newman, author of Catastrophic Happiness: Finding Joy in Childhood's Messy Years. "I just think they get in so much trouble for the weirdest reasons. Isn't trick-or-treating the most innocent, delightful thing for them to still want to do? Actually, when people complain about teenagers trick-or-treating, I'm like, 'Wait, what do you wish they were doing? Would you rather they were on their phones?'"
Of course, her tolerance has a limit. You can't just show up and demand Halloween candy, Newman says. If you're going to trick-or-treat, you have to play by the rules.
"You have to wear a costume—and wear it like you mean it," Newman offers. "And you have to say 'please' and 'thank you,' too, the same way you would if you were a little kid."
And no matter your family's plans, it's important to keep the holiday "magical" (read: not terrifying) for the youngest ones out there. If your teen's intention is to dress up in a nightmare-inducing ensemble, legitimately scare others, or otherwise make trouble, he or she should consider staying home.
For the most part though, Newman asks parents to "just roll with it"—and this time, she's talking to those of you doling out the sweets.
"You don't always know what you're seeing when a teenager comes to the door," Newman says. "That person might be developmentally disabled, or perhaps they're new to the country and don't know the nuances of our customs."
At the end of the day, as long as all participants are well-intentioned, she sees no reason why the fun tradition needs an age limit at all.
"It's so incredibly sweet to watch these kids, who are on the cusp of adulthood, wanting to do something so innocent," Newman says. "Watching my 17-year-old and his friends trade candy was one of the best evenings of my life."
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Rebekah LowinLifestyle EditorRebekah Lowin is the Lifestyle Editor for Country Living, covering entertaining, home decor, DIY, gardening, holiday, and more.
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