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In defense of teenage trick-or-treaters: Parents say, let (big) kids be kids

The Halloween tradition is stirring debate among parents.
If TODAY anchors can get in the spirit of Halloween (Al Roker as Steve Urkel in 2016), why can't teens?
If TODAY anchors can get in the spirit of Halloween (Al Roker as Steve Urkel in 2016), why can't teens?Nathan Congleton / TODAY
/ Source: TODAY

Should teenagers go trick-or-treating?

Kids aren't asking — they'll take the free candy — but some parents wonder if it's developmentally appropriate for teens to trick-or-treat, supervised or not.

If your older child loves trick-or-treating, that's OK. More than one quarter of adults (26%) believe that children are never too old for the tradition, according to a 2021 YouGov survey.

And 46% of parents agreed in a TODAY Parents survey.

Sixteen percent of adults in the TODAY survey felt kids should stop trick-or-treating around 17 or 18, while 19% said age 15 or 16 is the stopping point. And 1% said kids older than 9 shouldn't go door-to-door.

Related: Halloween 2022: How old is too old to trick or treat?

Trick-or-treating, however, is not just about collecting free candy. It's also a time for unfettered creativity.

Other than activities like cosplay or musical theater, Halloween is one of few occasions for older kids to enjoy make-believe play, Hilary G. Conklin, a professor in the department of teacher education at DePaul University, told TODAY Parents.

Rachel Houston of Charlotte, N.C., says her 14-year-old daughter loves self-expression on Halloween.

"On some years, she dressed fairly mainstream — as a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle, a T-Rex wearing an inflatable costumes and Wonder Woman," Houston told TODAY Parents. "Other years, she gets super creative and makes her own costume. For example, last year she was an 'edgy' female version of Jason Voorhees" from the film series "Friday the 13th."

Some teens are looking forward to trick-or-treating this year because it's their first "normal" Halloween since the pandemic.

Related: 6 ways to celebrate Halloween without trick-or-treating

"Remember that the pandemic effectively canceled the last few Halloweens," Sheryl Ziegler, the author of “Mommy Burnout," told TODAY Parents. "Many kids didn't trick-or-treat in 2020 or followed social distancing rules in 2021."

"If you're 14 and have skipped the last two Halloweens, that's a big deal," she added.

And older kids with developmental disabilities may not have outgrown trick-or-treating.

"My 10-year-old son has special needs that are invisible to outsiders," said Amanda O’Connor, a Nashville mom.

Related: Florida mom’s hilarious post about daughter’s obsession with terrifying doll goes viral

"He has always been interested in content and activities that are geared towards younger children," she said. "I anticipate him wanting to trick-or-treat much later than other kids."

Some parents prefer their teens to trick-or-treat, for no other reason than to keep them out of trouble.

"Kids should be allowed to trick-or-treat up to the age of 18," Brandi Harris of Oklahoma City told TODAY Parents. "It’s way better than going to a party where someone may spike the punch or something else dangerous. If a kid still wants to participate in innocent fun, why would we want to stop them?"

No argument — although Ziegler makes a point for jaded teens: "Everyone appreciates a good costume.”

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