Monday, October 27, 2014

Trick-or-Treat vs. Trunk-or-Treat

Trick-or-Treat vs. Trunk-or-Treat

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Each Halloween parents are faced with a decision to have their children go trick-or-treating door-to-door or find a local trunk-or-treat event. Now in saying that I realize that some people will say that they do both. That's fine. But I am here to make an argument for good, old fashioned, door-to-door, trick-or-treating and against the new fad of trunk-or-treating.

First, trunk-or-treating is cheating. Plain and simple. Taking your kid to a parking lot and having them walk from car-to-car to load up their bags is cheating. They don't have to do any work to get all that candy. You might as well buy them a costco size bag of candy, dress them in their costumes to take pictures for instagram so all your friends can see how cute they are and then take them to a friend's house to play video games. Okay, maybe that's a little extreme... but it really is cheating.

Walking around the neighborhood for candy is good for many reasons. It's good exercise, especially if they are going to be eating a whole bag of candy. In a way, it portion controls the amount of candy they get. If your kid gets tired of walking around door-to-door for candy and wants to stop trick-or-treating, they will end up with less candy. If they want to keep going, keep walking and getting more exercise, they will end up with more candy. I realize that the kids aren't going to eat all the candy that night, but it might just give them a sense of working harder for greater gains. Trunk-or-treating, on the other hand, allows them to load up as much candy as they possibly can without putting forth much effort. 

It is good exercise for the parents as well. Walking with your children through the neighborhood will also get you out and about, so when you sneak some candy from your kids' bag you will at least have walked a few blocks first. This also allows you to make sure your young kids are staying safe while you are exercising together. It is well known that exercise releases endorphins, and if you are able to do this together as a family, it will strengthen family bonds. This is something that should be practiced often as a family and not just on Halloween, but Halloween is a great time to get started. 

Second, the safety issue. When I was a child there were urban legends going around about poisoned candy and razor blades and all manner of atrocious things, but none of these stories were true. Many parents like the security of the trunk-or-treat and feel it is safer than wandering through neighborhoods. It is true that if you attend a trunk-or-treat it is because you are likely already affiliated with the group who is hosting it. So therefore you are more likely to know and trust those who are attending. Many of them may be your neighbors if the trunk-or-treat is at a church or a school (as they often are). It may seem safe but I believe there are more hidden dangers by going to the trunk-or-treat than you may realize. 

Kids are smart little sponges of information both conscious and subconscious. They will realize why you are taking them trunk-or-treating whatever the reason may be. By taking them to the trunk-or-treat you are preventing them from not only meeting new people in the neighborhood that may not be associated with the trunk-or-treat group, but you are also preventing them from seeing people they already know in a different context. If you are taking your kids trunk-or-treating at a school or church, it is likely that you will be seeing the people there that you already see at school and/or church. I believe it is much safer for your children if they have a sense of where these neighbors live. Especially in an emergency situation you would want them to know which doors they can knock on and know that someone inside knows who they are and can help them.

And as for meeting strangers in the neighborhood, wouldn't it be better for everyone if there were fewer strangers in the neighborhood? Research shows that knowing your neighbors has many benefits, such as: diffusing conflicts, sense of belonging and shared identity, and good mental health. Another benefit to taking your kids door-to-door is that you have the opportunity to meet some neighbors, so you as well can know who to turn to if you find yourself in an emergency (even if the emergency is to borrow a cup of sugar). It also allows you to see how some of these neighborhood strangers interact with your children. The first step in protecting your child from stranger danger may be to narrow the 'stranger' field. And if more neighbors know your child by name, and that it is your child, they can help you look out for them and notice when a true stranger may be lurking around. 

If your kids are too old to have a parent tag along for trick-or-treating, make sure they go with a group of friends and know a few basic safety tips: don't go inside someone's house, stay on the porch for your candy and if they want you to come inside for it, leave. But the biggest danger to kids is being hit by a car. Kids are twice as likely to get hit by a car on Halloween than any other time. So tell them to look out for cars - and maybe attach some reflective strips to their costume if you can. 

But even with the danger of being hit by a car, going door-to-door is better for you and your children than going trunk-to-trunk. I hope everyone reading this has a fun and safe Halloween however you decide to celebrate it. 

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