Last year around this time, I wrote a blog post, “Five Reasons Not to Dismiss Halloween,” which I think is worth repeating. But that was just a year ago, and I like to keep things fresh. So please feel free to check out that post.
Maybe the thing to do this year is look at the issue from another angle. There are reasons to be careful and discerning in regard to Halloween.
1. Not every child enjoys being frightened. Halloween can be a really rough time for children who are sensitive. Don’t pressure any child to take part in activities he or she wants to avoid. Don’t force an introvert—who might prefer to stay in and watch a movie—to join the neighborhood costume parade. And shield little ones from displays that are gruesome, bloody, or otherwise shocking. As a kid who scared easily and for whom Halloween was a yearly torment, I can attest that some children don’t simply “get over it” when they have been scared badly or pushed into situations that made them uncomfortable. Be attentive to the signals your child gives you about what he or she wants or is ready for.
2. Safety isn’t as simple as it used to be. Although there are wonderful exceptions, most of us no longer live in small communities where everybody knows everybody and adults look out for one another’s children. Many neighbors barely know one another. If your child goes trick-or-treating nearby, she may encounter people she’s never met and whom you know nothing about. Children wandering, even in groups, after dark and in the confusion of costumes, are easy targets for people of ill will. And—as fondly as I remember the homemade treats my grandmother handed out her door back in the old days—it’s really a bad idea to eat anything you can’t be certain is sealed and has not been tampered with.
Better yet, make sure an adult or trustworthy teenager accompanies younger children, or simply throw a fun party where there are games and plenty of treats and people you know.
3. It is unwise to be flippant about evil. While we can forego belief in spirits coming out of their graves on Halloween, we are wise to avoid occult topics and to steer children away from them. Better that they dress up as superheroes than demons. Regardless of what you believe about the topic, most of us do agree that evil is a reality in this world, and children can learn to respect the power of evil even in the midst of a fun holiday such as Halloween.
4. Large groups of kids can succumb to mob mentality. Of course they can—so do adults! There are always those people, of any age, who take advantage of perfectly good events to cause trouble, carry out meanness, and encourage others to do what they ordinarily wouldn’t. If your teenager is roaming with friends on Halloween, know who those friends are, and be firm about check-in phone calls and other ways of tracking his or her whereabouts and activities.
5. The fun of the holiday should not override consideration for our neighbors. Halloween is an excellent time to reinforce principles of respecting others’ property, putting some restraints on noise and activity, and generally showing consideration for other people. Bigger kids should look out for the little ones. Everyone should respectfully bypass homes that do not invite visitors (no porch light, no answer to the doorbell). And this is a night when pedestrians and drivers can be extra careful and polite to one another—rather than getting testy and pushing limits.
I apologize if this post comes across as a bit preachy. In my neighborhood—which I don’t think is an unusual one—parents and older siblings take children around to homes of people they know, or to houses (like mine) with decorations and a lit pumpkin in the window. But it never hurts to post a reminder or two about how to make the holiday a pleasant one.
And of course, depending on your situation, you can opt out of this celebration altogether. It’s a fun holiday but certainly not a day that must be observed if it offends your beliefs or otherwise is not attractive to you or your family.