Halloween for Single Parents: Tips to Keep It Safe and Fun

Fall is here, and for many families (and especially children) that means but one thing: Halloween! Tens of millions of children hit the sidewalks with their parents, friends, and families each year, knocking on doors and accumulating more candy than most parents would like to admit. But there's always one question in everyone's mind every year: is it safe?

Safety during Halloween outings is a major concern for any parent. As a single parent, taking care of all safety concerns can be all the more challenging. There are a lot of areas to be concerned about as well. If you send your children out alone, will they be safe? If they go out with friends, how can you be sure that they and their friends will keep each other safe from harm? Can you trust the candy you are getting from your neighbors? There is no shame in asking these questions, but dispelling a few myths, as well as building up a nice repertoire of fun and safe tips should help make trick-or-treat outings a bit less spooky.

Scary Stories: Poisoned Candy and Razor Blades
Perhaps the biggest Halloween myths we have all heard are about strangers putting razor blades, needles, and poisons in the candy. While these have certainly occurred in the past, and small incidents do likely occur every year, any report you read about frequent incidents is downright false.

When it comes to poisonings, there's one bright spot. Most reports are either false or completely unconfirmed.[1] There are certainly incidents of people dying from poisoned candy, but no confirmed incidents relate specifically to candy given to children by their neighbors or strangers. Some of the myth around poison-laced candy comes from a 1974 incident, in which a man named Ronald Clark O'Bryan placed potassium cyanide in his own son's Pixy Stix candy, planning to claim that a neighbor had given the candy and then claim life insurance on his dead son.[2] Instead, police learned he had, in fact, murdered his child.

As for razor blades and needles? There is some small truth there. One Ohio parent found a razor blade in her child's chocolate bar in 2015.[3] As for needles, however, you'll need to check the large book of myths. Needles get reported regularly but in most cases investigation determines that the reports are fabricated.

But you're a parent. And, truth or not, you're still worried something might show up in the candy.

Safety Tip: Check your children's candy before you let them eat it. And if you go trick-or-treating with your children, pay close attention to what your neighbors slip into the bags. A good idea for once you get home is to have your kids dump the candy out on the floor and then sort it according to type, a fun activity but also your secret way of making sure there's nothing peculiar about the haul. Check to make sure none of the candy has been opened. That's always a sign that something might be wrong with it.

Kidnappings and Assaults -- Fear Not!
While you don't need to lose sleep over razor blades and cyanide in your kids' candy, your other safety fears are not unwarranted, especially those involving kidnappings and assaults. First, the good news: The oft-quoted number of children who go missing each year is wrong. Big time. You may hear that upwards of 58,000 children are abducted every year. These are old numbers, which predate the use of mobile phones and the now-ubiquitous Amber Alert system.[4] In fact, children are safer in the U.S. now than they've ever been.[5]

The bad news is that Halloween is still one of the most dangerous holidays for children. The danger is not kidnappings and assaults, but cars. The biggest issue you have to worry about is careless drivers. Halloween always results in a higher number of children getting hit by cars.[6] Much of this has to do with children who are going trick-or-treating without their parents, or with an older sibling who has not taken proper precautions when crossing the street.

Safety Tip: Always talk to your children about how to properly cross the street. And on Halloween, do one of two things: go trick-or-treating with your children, or allow your children to trick-or-treat with a friend and their parents. It's best not to leave your children in the care of an older teenaged child unless you are confident in them, or to let your children go out alone, especially if you live in a neighborhood with a lot of vehicle traffic, or near busy roads.

Don't Ignore the Costume!
Bought a few costumes from your local party store or Amazon? Great! Your children will likely win the prize for the best princess, superhero or scary monster. But you might want to be sure you've purchased a costume that's safe to wear. One of the biggest and most overlooked, safety concerns for children on Halloween is the costume. There are some costume concerns that can easily get ignored until too late. Consider all of the following:

Is your child's costume flame resistant? Flames are everywhere on Halloween. Lit candles, torches, bonfires are all part of the tradition, but if they come in contact with a flammable costume, they spell big trouble. Costumes with many long, flowing strands and tassels are a particular concern.

Easy to see in low light. Dark colors are always popular, but if your children's costumes are dark with nothing that reflects light, it becomes easier to lose track of them in the crowd and harder for drivers to see them.

Safety Tip: Only buy costumes that specify they are fire resistant. If you're not sure, it's best not to purchase the costume at all. If you must purchase it (i.e., your children just won't take "no" for an answer), make sure you take extra care that your child stays away from any open flames.

Safety Tip: Purchase wearable reflectors for your children if the costume has none. Make sure that the reflectors are in a spot where they'll catch light from both the front and the back of your children's bodies.

Halloween is a great time to have fun with your kids and even let them annoy your dentist a bit. However, safety should always come first. Single parents need not fear the unknowns when it comes to Halloween. If you can take care of your safety concerns well ahead of time, you should be able to have a safe and fun holiday.