Have you ever thought about the message you are sending your kids on Halloween when they dress up like a bloodied vampire and stuff their faces with candy?
I know I sure do! On the one hand, Halloween is fun. Getting dressed up and pretending to be someone else is a blast. And who doesn’t love candy?
But on the other hand, is this really a holiday we should be celebrating?
Some families decide to skip Halloween celebrations entirely because of the evil and darkness associated with the holiday. Others ignore all that and concentrate on the fun—stretching spider-web decorations across the front door and turning their home into the neighborhood’s most elaborate spooky spectacle. Some people take a middle road by modifying the traditional holiday and turning it into a fall festival.
I’m not here to cast judgment on any of these decisions … every family is different, and I know great fathers in all three of these camps.
But one way or another, Halloween marks an opportunity to connect with your kids and teach them some invaluable lessons about a wide range of things from good and evil to nutrition and health to community and strangers.
Here are 12 ACTION POINTS for grabbing onto opportunities to connect with your kids and teach them invaluable lessons on Halloween.
- Talk to your children about your community. Tell them what it means to be a good neighbor and part of a bigger community. Perhaps you can even use Halloween as an opportunity to reconnect with your neighbors and build a stronger sense of community. Here’s an idea: Invite a neighbor to join you for a healthy day-after-Halloween meal. Then have your children help prepare the meal.
- Encourage your older kids to help out around the neighborhood. Maybe they can take a fatherless child trick-or-treating or volunteer at an event for young children.
- Show your children how to interact with strangers. You can role-play different scenarios. What should they do if a stranger starts a conversation with them on the street? What if a stranger needs help? Teach your children how to be respectful and safe at the same time.
- Remind your children to have manners, and show respect and kindness. Halloween can encourage mischief, and children often demand “treats” from the neighbors. Teaching your children to say “please” and “thank you” will serve them for the rest of their life.
- If your children are younger, talk to them about being safe while crossing the street. If your children are teenagers, ask them to keep an eye on the neighborhood kids so that they are safe.
- Now is also a good time to talk to your kids about nutrition. Teach them about empty calories and good calories, and remind them that every time they choose to eat candy, they are missing an opportunity to eat something with good calories.
- At the same time, let your children know that some occasions call for celebrations, so it’s okay to have a treat here and there and enjoy “empty calories.” Let your children know how you make responsible decisions, and what you do to make sure your own life is in balance.
- Ask your kids to share their loot. Perhaps they could give some to a local youth-oriented charity.
- Tell your children about your favorite Halloween costume when you were young.
- For some kids, dressing up in scary costumes is fun. Others want to dress up like their heroes. Either way, talk to your kids about why they chose their costume, whether it’s a cowboy, ballerina, or something scarier. You will have a great opportunity to connect with your kids and learn more about who they are and who they want to be.
- You can then talk to your kids about good and evil, and remind them how to make sure they never open the doors to evil. It’s your role and responsibility to hold your children accountable to the values you are teaching them—and that may mean forbidding activities that could elevate or encourage wrongdoing.
- One last thing, if you are religious or spiritual, pray with your children before they walk out the door. Ask for the physical and spiritual safety of all children.
If you have any other ideas for connecting with your kids this Halloween, leave a comment on our Facebook or Google+ pages, or on our blog. Or if you and your kids go out with a clever father-child costume, tell us about it or post a picture.
*Many of these ideas come from Jay Payleitner, a long-time friend, NCF blogger, and author of 365 Ways to Say “I Love You” To Your Kids.
Carey Casey is CEO of the National Center for Fathering, a nonprofit organization dedicated to finding 6.5 million fathers who will make the Championship Fathering Commitment. NCF believes that every child needs a dad they can count on, and uses its resources to inspire and equip men to be the involved fathers, grandfathers and father figures their children need. Subscribe here to receive our weekly email tips.