Last year, 755 car crashes were recorded in Louisiana during the 100 hours surrounding Halloween—and in 2008, the state saw 23 traffic deaths on Halloween night alone. This weekend, as older teens and college students drive to and from Halloween parties, savvy parents may worry about their kids’ well-being. But don’t worry in silence—sharing your perspective with your teen (and clarifying family ground rules if they’re still living at home) can help steer them towards less dangerous social behaviors.
Parties allow people to temporarily put on an alternate persona, whether it’s a nicer outfit, a little more makeup, or a head-to-toe Halloween costume. That concept can be very freeing for teens, but it’s no excuse for reckless behavior. While you can’t expect that your well-behaved daughter will act the same as always when she’s dressed as the devil or a Gossip Girl, the best thing you can do is keep the lines of communication open so that she knows the rules and you know what she’s up to.
If your kid is in college, Halloween is likely just one of the alcohol-laden, crazily costumed theme parties they attend throughout the year (toga parties and “geeks and gangsters” seem to be favorites). This can be worrisome because the older your kid is, the fewer rules you can offer them. Nevertheless, you’re still a parent and your opinion still counts. Ask about what parties they’re attending, mention those Halloween crash statistics, express your concerns. You don’t have to tell them what they can or cannot do—you can treat them as you would treat your own sibling or friend whom you were worried about.
Remember, though: the opportunity for partying, drug and alcohol consumption, and other reckless behavior is there for your teen just about any weekend. Around this time of year, the high school party atmosphere is just starting to ripen; kids have already settled into school, they’ve made it past midterms, and finals are still in the future. With Thanksgiving and the winter holidays just around the corner, it’s prime time for parents to have important conversations with their teens about the parameters of their of social activities. Can they go out more than one night per weekend? Can they get in a car with an older teen behind the wheel? What about when college friends return for homecoming or Thanksgiving? College kids may be used to drinking at parties, and are likely to bring that behavior back to their hometown—it’s important to discuss this with your teen and outline rules so that you’re both prepared.
When you’re a teen or a young adult faced with pressures to drink and use drugs, Halloween frights are the least of your worries. Luckily, parents are there to provide guidance—on Halloween night and every night of the year.
Director, Center on Addiction and the Family