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September 30, 2013
Halloween is a fun tradition that allows kids to put on a costume and be somebody else for just a few hours. It’s a great way to encourage creativity and imagination. Kids are able to dream and discover who they want to be. But sometimes, October 31 can have so much more pressure than to see who has the best costume or who can collect the most candy from neighbors.
Halloween offers lots of fun, but can also offer lots of opportunities to participate in unsafe behavior. From trick-or-treating without supervision, to the pressure to drink or do drugs at a party, kids can get hurt during Halloween. Here are 10 safety tips for kids of all ages to have a safe, spooky and very sweet Halloween.
1. Participate as a family.
Dressing up isn’t just for the kids! Pick a fun theme and go all out. Matching your costume with your children’s is cute for photos, and makes it easy to stay together. There are a number of family-friendly activities to do in the Tampa Bay area this season, including Red Ribbon Healthy Family Fun Fest. This is an awesome pre-Halloween event to encourage your children and teens to make healthy life choices and avoid harmful substances.
2. Take care when carving.
Jack-o-lanterns are the mascot for Halloween, and what kid doesn’t love the idea of playing with pumpkin guts? As fun as it is to carve out faces, sharp knives are dangerous when in the hands of children. Consider alternatives such as having kids draw on a pumpkin with markers, and then letting an adult carve the face. Supervise older children to avoid any accidents. Be careful using a lit candle inside once it’s carved. Battery-operated LED candles are a safe option.
3. Don’t go trick-or-treating alone.
Young children need supervision whenever they go outside and walk along streets, but this is even truer on Halloween night when sidewalks are crowded and it’s easier to get lost. Even older children and teens, who may be allowed to walk around without a parent, should always stick together in a group of friends. Not only is there safety in numbers, but also it’s more fun to trick-or-treat in a group! Map out a safe route together so you’ll know where they’re headed when the night begins.
4. Have fun with a costume, but make sure it’s visible.
Spooky Halloween nights can really be fun when the sun goes down and they sky grows darker, but that also means that drivers and others pedestrians have a harder time seeing. Wear lighter colors, put reflective tape on strategic places in the costume, and carry a flashlight with fresh batteries to help increase visibility.
5. Think through the costumes.
Sure, it’s important for your kids to think through all the details of their costumes, because they have to show their friends how cool it is! But it’s critical for you to help them think through the safety of their costumes. For example, keep costumes simple. Don’t use anything that someone could grab hold of. Hanging accessories are major hazards. They could cause an accidental fall or get caught on decorations. Before setting out for the night, know which costume everyone in the group is wearing. Pumpkins and princesses can start to look familiar after a few hours, so be sure you can recognize which one is yours.
6. Bring your phone.
Sometimes costumes don’t have pockets, and another bag besides the one for candy could get in the way. However, if your child is trick-or-treating without you, it is imperative that communication is possible. Have your phone on and nearby, and make sure your child does the same. This benefits both parent and child, because if anything should happen, or your child feels uncomfortable, there is an easy way to get in touch with home and to get out safely.
7. Check the treats.
It’s hard enough to limit your kids to just a few pieces of candy on a regular day, but on Halloween, when candy is overflowing from their buckets, it’s important to encourage patience while you look over their haul for choking hazards, or unsafe tampering. It’s worth the few extra minutes to guarantee that your child is safe.
8. Be a good driver.
If your teens are driving to parties or other get-togethers, remind them to be extra cautious on the roads. Little kids will be out, and should be with a parent, but there’s a chance one could dart into the road unexpectedly. Also, remind them of the dangers of driving under the influence. Instruct them not to get in the car if the driver is drunk or on drugs, and not to get behind the wheel if they have had something to drink.
9. Just say no.
Peer pressure is hard to back away from in a party setting. Encourage your teens to ask their friends if a parent will be at the party, and go over practical solutions to just say, “No.” Most importantly, have an open dialogue with your kids about what is accepted behavior, and assure them that their safety is your number one priority. If they call to be picked up, you will come no matter what.
10. Know the plan.
Schedule several times that your teen is to check in with you throughout the night, especially if it involves multiple locations. Know where they’re going, whom they’re going with, and what kind of adult presence will be there. Be clear they don’t go anywhere else without clearing it with you first.
Fun and safety don’t have to be separate ideas when it comes to Halloween. Trust that your child knows the boundaries between right and wrong, and talk to them about making safe choices every day, not just on Halloween.
For more information about drug-free parenting advice, visit LiveFree! at www.pinellascoalition.com.