Halloween Etiquette Tips for Parents

Trick or treating

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Halloween is one of those holidays that people typically either love or hate—with nothing in between. Whether you dress up for Halloween or simply hand out candy to little ghosts and goblins, remember that this is not the time to let go of basic good manners. Put on a smile and say something nice to the kids who ring your doorbell.

If you choose to celebrate by handing out candy and letting your children trick or treat, try to have a positive attitude. You'll have a much better time if you and your children follow some basic Halloween etiquette rules.

Handing out Candy

If you have lived in your house for more than a year, you probably have a pretty good idea of how many children will come looking for candy. Purchase enough for each child to have at least one piece and add an extra bag for good measure. If you finish the evening with leftovers that you don’t want, bring them into the office the next day or donate them to your child’s school or local charity.

You should never feel obligated to hand out more than one piece of candy to each child. However, if you want to be extra generous and give more, that’s fine. Avoid letting the children grab what they want because that can cause chaos, and if there are a lot of little hands in the bucket, it spreads germs.

Make sure all the candy you hand out is individually wrapped and sealed. Many parents won’t allow their children to have homemade popcorn balls, cookies, and other sweet treats unless they know you well.

If you want to hand out toothbrushes, pencils, and erasers, be prepared for a few groans and sad faces as most children want candy when they go trick or treating. This is the one night each year when most parents give in and let their children have as much sugar as they can collect, so if you choose to participate, it’s best not to disappoint them.

Smile when you greet the children. After they say, “Trick or treat,” try to think of a fun, polite comment about their costumes.

Maintaining Safety

Do everything you can to provide a safe environment for the children to trick or treat at your home. Remove all obstructions, including bicycles, skateboards, and other mobile equipment from sidewalks and walkways. If you have sprinkler heads or any other structures that you cannot remove, make sure they are visible so little ones don’t trip and injure themselves. Park your car in a location that doesn’t obstruct children’s view of traffic.

Turn on your porch light and leave it on as long as you have candy to hand out. If the weather permits, you may even want to sit on your front porch which may give you a chance to visit with some of your neighbors.

Decorating Your House

If you decorate your house for Halloween, keep in mind that some decorations can frighten the younger children. Try to avoid severed limbs, loose eyeballs, and scary music until the tiniest kids have finished for the evening. If you hand out candy past 8 or 9 p.m., this is the time to safely raise the gore level if desired.

Preparing Your Children

Before you take your own children trick or treating, spend some time reminding them of the manners you have taught them. This repetition will keep your teaching fresh in their minds. Also, tell them to be careful not to scare younger kids. Instruct them not to walk across people’s yards or touch their flowerbeds.

Check the children's costumes before they go out. Make sure there are no rips or ragged hems that they might trip over. Add reflectors to the front, back, and sides. Give each child a flashlight or glow stick for an added layer of safety.

Ending the Night

If you have run out of candy or you no longer want to answer the door, turn off the light to let trick-or-treaters know you're finished. This is a universal signal that trick-or-treaters should bypass your house. Most people, at least those with small children, end trick-or-treating by 8:30 or 9 p.m.