This time of year can be filled with fun, wonder, fear, and chills. I hear from many different parents year after year, who desire to live out their faith every day of the year - but for whom Halloween poses some unique challenges.
I do not pretend to hold all the answers. Parenting through Halloween is challenging. In my case parenting through Halloween while also being a pastor felt even more weighty. So while I assure you that I do not know the "right way" to navigate through Halloween as a Christian parent, I thought I might share with you some of the things I found myself thinking about. If this list is useful for you, great. If not, then at least this may guide some of your thinking and discussions as a family. Either way, lets agree, Halloween can sometimes be more "tricky" than a treat.
Some thoughts on navigating Halloween as a Christian parent:
Though tempting, especially around culturally loaded days, avoiding the trappings that come with Halloween altogether may not be the best approach. Such an avoidance tactic may leave children more vulnerable to confusion, half truths, and lies than one would hope. Proactive parents choose to actively parent kids through this Halloween day, and everyday of the year. This often involves stepping into conversations rather than tacitly communicating to kids that they should look to others for help around topics mom and dad avoid.
Everyday is a gift from God. No date makes a day more or less holy. Encourage children young and old to receive each day with thanks.
Focus on that which is real vs unreal. Take time through this season to celebrate bats, rats, pumpkins, spiders, moon, crows, frogs, skeletons, etc. Try to resist categorizing these real creations as "scary,” rather shed light on how they are wonderfully made.
Open up conversations and play with your children, celebrating that costumes can be a fun way to use our imaginations. Talk about how it can be fun to pretend to be something other than what we are, still God always knows who we are. God always knows the truth about us and about everyone else. It may make dressing up more fun when we know the safety and protection of our God, who can always see the truth.
Costumes are only on the outside. They don't actually change who we are. Halloween offers a first opportunity to introduce the values of authenticity and integrity. You might enjoy exploring this idea of what others see and what is true with your children. “If I dress up as Picachu, I'm still Mom on the inside. If I dress up as a clown, I'm still Mom.” There is an opportunity to talk about how what people see isn't always the truth about us. We are much more than what we look like. Ultimately God knows what is in our hearts (the inside) and is not fooled by our "costume." Wonder together about how this may change the way we think of others?
Our language shapes much of what kids think about what they see. Wherever possible keep language neutral, or at least un-alarming. Try calling things “unusual” or “unexpected” instead of “scary.”
The scriptures teach that perfect love casts out all fear, so there is no need for families to cause unnecessary fear for one another. While some families think it is fun to frighten others, talk with you kids about how in your family you enjoy making folks feel welcome and comfortable as you celebrate. As your kids mature you may expand that conversation to include discussion around how the use of fear is often employed to control others, even large populations. Wherever possible make efforts to reject fear and embrace wonder.
As your kids mature, you will also naturally mature your discussions. You may discuss how some people infuse Halloween with sinister and supernatural powers. As people of faith we always rest in the truth that the Name of Jesus is more powerful than any other. Still, it is wise to choose carefully how and where we celebrate the fun of Halloween. Pay attention and realize that some folks may be celebrating a supernatural element of the day. Empower your kids to make the decision not join in anything that asks them to challenge the Lordship of Jesus.
The history of almost all our Christian celebrations is that they have morphed from previously secular celebrations. One response to this Halloween season is to enjoy the places God is redeeming and morphing this celebration in your community. Embrace your neighbours. Give generously (perhaps give full size candy bars, or host a block party or hotdog roast). Pray for your community. Enjoy one another. Give thanks for the creation that is most fully seen in the fall. Live out your faith vibrantly.
There is always more going on in the world than the eye can see. Sometimes this scares people. For the one who places faith in Jesus it is an invitation to look for the ways God is at work around us. Consider this season an invitation to keep your eyes open for God-sightings. Take this opportunity to remind yourself and your children that things can be spiritual without being spooky. Wonder together about how God is revealing himself to you today.
For your children, Halloween likely represents a fun day filled with excitement and candy. Consider the places during this season where you can connect with your kids in a playful way and deepen your relationship with them. Keep talking with them about what they are looking forward to, what they love about this season. Visit pumpkin patches, and chat while walking through falling leaves. Sip hot chocolate and dream together about ways to connect with friends and family throughout the fall season. Take every opportunity to move toward one another. Wonder and imagine. Listen to one another's ideas. Keep the conversations going.