Like it or loathe it, celebrating Halloween and embracing the US tradition of ‘trick or treat’ has become a thing in WA in recent years. Once upon a time you could get away with not even knowing what day it was, but now the barrage of media coverage and merchandising associated with the 31st of October is likely to capture your kid’s attention and therefore force your reluctant or even willing involvement.
While it’s fun for kids (and adults) to get dressed up and head out into the local neighbourhood in the hope of scoring lollies and chocolate, parents shouldn’t consider waving their little ones off (or even going with them) without making sure they first have some basic safety measures in place to minimise any potential risks.
So, in the interests of making Halloween stress-free for harried parents, here’s my top tips on how to get maximum enjoyment from Halloween trick or treating with minimum worry!
Tip #1: Don’t go it alone! I know it’s obvious, but kids should never be out wandering the streets by themselves, especially at night. Ideally go with them, but if they’re of an age where they won’t appreciate that, then make sure they are with friends and know to stick together.
Tip #2: Got a phone? Most people don’t leave the house without it anyway, but if they’re going without you make sure they have theirs and that it’s fully charged. If they’re going with another parent, check that they have their phone and you know the number.
Tip #3: Make an ID tag. No one ever plans to lose their child, but it’s good to be prepared for the worst. Attach a tag or sticker with your emergency contact details on it inside their costume just in case. That way if they get lost someone can call you.
Tip #4: Be seen, be safe. Remind your kids not to run, to use crossings, stay on footpaths and do all the streetwise stuff they’d do on their way to school. Likewise, make sure they know to stay in well-lit areas and use torches or perhaps reflective or glowing accessories so drivers can see them.
Tip #5: Never go inside! Make sure your children understand they should never (repeat, NEVER) step across a threshold while out trick or treating, and always remain within view of the street. Once inside, no-one can see them anymore. Likewise, tell your kids not to go near any cars that might pull up offering treats.
Tip #6: Agree a route. Plan where you’re going to take your kids and maybe warn the streets that you are coming via a letterbox drop – it can minimise any potential unpleasantness from those who don’t want to be disturbed. If they’re going on their own, agree with them the boundaries of the area they’ll explore, so you know where to look if they’re late back.
Tip #7: Check the lollies first. If they have an allergy then they don’t want to remember that after they’ve eaten it. Remind your younger children what they can’t eat, and if they’re going with another parent or their friends, tell them if your child has an allergy. Maybe agree that the loot has to be checked by you when they get back before they can have any (hard to enforce I know but worth a shot).
Tip #8: Everything goes better with clear communication. Make sure you talk to your kids about trick or treating before they go, and run through and agree these points with them beforehand.
I know, you’re probably thinking, “well that’s all just common sense”, but you’d be surprised. In our extensive work managing lost child services at WA’s events, we continually encounter parents who haven’t done any of these things and are beside themselves having lost their child. In my experience, the trauma they and their children go through when this happens can largely be avoided by practicing these preventative safety measures.
By David Gribble, Chief Executive Officer, Constable Care Child Safety Foundation