If your child hasn't asked you yet, you know the question is coming. Parents know that Halloween is a time when kids look to extend their independence by wanting to either trick-or-treat by themselves or with a group of friends. But is it really safe for the candy-seekers to trick-or-treat alone -- with no chaperone?

When my kids were smaller, I would often hold on to the hands of my little ones tightly as we made the route around the neighborhood. As they got older, I would either trail behind them or sometimes even drive my car to the end of the block and patiently wait for them to walk my way, all with a goal of not wanting to embarrass them. But there came a time when I had to trust them and let them go with their friends, but not before laying out a few rules.

Experts say there isn't an exact age that parents should finally give in and let their children trick-or-treat without a chaperone, but the first thing your child should be able to do by themselves before sending them out the door to gather candy is cross the street responsibly.

Experts at the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration suggests that children under the age of ten shouldn't cross busy streets by themselves, however parents will argue that children can cross busy streets by themselves closer to six or seven-years of age. These street crossing ages might not even be an issue for some trick-or-treaters, because some cities ban trick-or-treating altogether when kids reach the tween and teen ages.

Of course other factors also play a role into being able to send your child out the door without a parent on Halloween. Experts suggest that parents should know the neighborhood, feel comfortable with the route in that neighborhood and most importantly, knowing how your child will react to a situation.

Whether you listen to the experts or simply go by your "gut feeling", trick-or-treating isn't the same as it was when many of us parents were young. The bottom line is, young children should be chaperoned, by either a parent, older sibling or maybe even a sitter. If you do feel confident in allowing your older child to trick-or-treat by themselves or with a group of their friends, set ground rules. Make sure you know the route that they will be taking, tell your child they must "check-in" periodically and give them a time to return home.



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