Q: Halloween is right around the corner and I would like some safety tips for myself, and to share with other parents who have kids that also go trick-or-treating. Can you help?
A: Kids of all ages love Halloween. You get to dress up and get free candy. What a perfect holiday! Parents of trick-or-treating kids can get so caught up in the fun themselves that they might forget some simple safety ideas that could keep everyone out of trouble. Having a fun and safe Halloween will make it all worthwhile.
If you take your kids to a party or even a sponsored event, like a safe Halloween thrown by your church, community center, or even the Police Activities League, make sure to keep an eye on them at all times. Even though it seems less dangerous, you are still in an environment full of people that you may not know.
Know what other activities a child may be attending, such as parties, school or mall functions. If they are going to be at a friend’s home, get the phone number and try to meet the parents prior to the event.
Below are some common sense tips for the parents who have children that go trick-or-treating door to door:
Costumes and candy
• Help your young child pick out or make a costume that will be safe. Make sure that it’s fire proof or treated with fire retardant. Make-up is preferred over masks, but if they are wearing a mask of any kind, make sure that the eye holes are large enough for good peripheral vision.
• Make sure that if your child is carrying a prop, such as a butcher knife or a pitchfork, that the tips are smooth and flexible enough to not cause injury if fallen on. If kids are carrying any toys which resemble firearms, make sure they are brightly colored, and not real! Also, make sure that costumes won’t get in the way when they are walking, which could cause them to trip.
• Serve your kids a filling meal before trick-or-treating and they won’t be as tempted to eat the candy before they bring it home for you to check. When your kids come home with all the goodies, toss out any opened candy, or candy that looks like it has been tampered with.
• Trick-or-treating is safer when it is supervised by a parent or adult. If you can’t take them yourself, make arrangements with another parent or adult you trust.
• If your children are old enough to trick-or-treat without you, and they have a cell phone, make sure that all important numbers are already programmed on the phone and ready for use.
• Know the route your kids will be taking if you aren’t going with them. Let them know that they are to check in with you every hour, by phone or by stopping back at home. Make sure that they know not to deviate from the planned route so that you always know where they will be.
• Make sure you set a time that your kids should be home by. Make sure they know how important it is for them to be home on time or to call immediately if something happens and they are going to be delayed.
• Kids will be kids. Explain to kids and teens of all ages the difference between tricks and vandalism. Throwing eggs at a house may seem funny but they need to know the other side of the coin as well; that clean up and damages can ruin Halloween for everyone. Damage in most cases would constitute vandalism. And vandalism is a crime. If they are caught vandalizing, they can be arrested and restitution most likely will be required. Don’t do it, it’s not worth it.
Out and about
• Teach your kids about not getting into strangers’ cars or talking to strangers, no matter what the person says to them. Explain to them as simply as you can that some adults are bad and want to hurt children, that they should never go into a house they don’t know, or get into a car or go anywhere with a stranger. Also, tell them what to do should this happen, to scream as loud as they can to draw attention and to run away as fast as they can to some place safe, or to other parents out trick-or-treating with their kids.
• Be sure to show your children how to cross a street properly. They should always look both ways before crossing the street and should only cross at corners or crosswalks. Make sure that if you have more than one child, they know to take the hand of the younger child when they cross a street.
• Last, but not least, have children carry a flashlight. This will help light the walkways, allow them to see what is placed in their bucket, and allow them to be more visible when crossing the street.
Make Halloween a fun, safe and happy time for your kids and they’ll carry on the tradition that you taught them to their own families some day.
This column was prepared by NRO Richard Carranza (Beat 1: coastal and beach areas, including the Santa Monica Pier). He can be reached at (424) 200-0681 or firstname.lastname@example.org.