We’ve hit a Halloween milestone in our house. As a middle school mom, it’s the first year in forever I haven’t been in charge of planning a class Halloween party and one of my kids has decided they don’t want to trick or treat.
“Meh,” said Thomas with a shrug of his shoulders a month or so ago when his older sister shared her costume idea.
My newly minted middle schooler also told his crew of friends that he didn’t want to go trick or treating this year. I thought this would be the year that I sent both kids off into the neighborhood armed with cell phones for a night of independent trick or treating with friends but my son is content staying home and handing out candy.
Could he change his mind? Absolutely! I know he could change his mind and be digging through a bin of costume parts to fashion something as his friends appear at the door, bags open and hands ready for candy. If this happens, I’m happy to send him off into the darkness because even though he may not have planned to go out, I’ve been grooming him for years about safe trick or treat practices and making healthy decisions.
Our conversations go beyond binging on candy (inevitable on Halloween night!), crossing the street safely at corners, taking a flashlight, and using your best manners to thank homeowners for candy. These are topics we’ve covered and I revisit every year but as my kids have gotten older, the conversation has shifted from basic safety reminders to deeper conversations about healthy lifestyle choices and how to handle peer pressure.
Gone are the chubby little hands I used to hold and the short legs that could only handle so much trick or treating. As my kids have grown up and assumed more independence, I’ve worked to arm them with information to help them make good decisions in tough situations. Even if it seems like they’re not listening, they are and I hope my advice will stay in the backs of their minds for when they need it the most.
We always talk about being a good citizen and friend but these topics can on a new meaning when out with friends on Halloween. These days it’s important for them to remember things like checking to sure the members of your group are together before moving on to a new house, what to do if you feel that someone is being unsafe, that my texts need to be answered immediately, and how to handle peer pressure, including saying NO to underage drinking. Being offered a sip of alcohol may not happen this Halloween or even anytime in middle school, but when it does, I want my kids to be ready with a response and a plan.
This year I’m reviewing these 3 trick or treating tips to help keep my middle schoolers safe this Halloween. Even if Thomas really does decide to stay home, at least I’ve reinforced safety and healthy lifestyle messages that are important for him to know throughout the year.
3 Things Your Middle Schooler Needs to Know to Trick or Treat Without You
- Stay in touch— While apps like Find My iPhone and Life360 are great passive ways you can keep an eye out on your kids without requiring a response from them, middle schoolers with phones need to be reminded about the importance of texting you back right away or answering when you call. On Halloween night this means setting up setting up checkpoints or specific times for kids to touch base. This allows you and your tween or teen to communicate—and leaves room for an easy “out” if a party or situation gets out of hand. If you haven’t read about the X-Plan, read up on it and talk to your middle schooler about how it can serve as their way out.
- Use the buddy system— Do you know who your middle schooler is going trick or treating with? If not, ask and be sure to collect contact information from a few of their friends—just in case of a lost phone or dead mobile battery. It helps to know not only in case of emergency and getting in touch, but also serves as a reminder to kids that you plan to check in!
- Talk, chat, converse— Have a conversation with your middle schooler before they head out for the night. This weekend is a great time to address questions and establish expectations before festivities begin. And be direct. Prevent miscommunication between you and your kid and ensure you are on the same page about the night!
Cute graphics courtesy of Foundation for Advancing Alcohol Responsibility who provided inspiration for this post. I work as an Education Programs Consultant and serve as a paid member of their Educational Advisory Board but all opinions are my own and I was not compensated for this post.