What do we do about Halloween?
Deciding what to do about Halloween can feel tricky for Christian parents. We'd like to suggest four simple steps to help you make up your mind. You can download our handy postcard and read on to explore those four steps.
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It’s probably one of the questions Christian parents and carers agonise most over: What do we do about Halloween?
Whatever our own experience growing up, Halloween is something we just have to address. Whether we like it or not, our children will be exposed to Halloween, sent home from nursery with a spider colouring sheet, having a dress up day at school, asked to carve a pumpkin, coming across the bloody costumes in the supermarket, invited to trick and treat with their friends. So what DO we do? Opt out completely? Engage with some of it? Embrace it fully?
Here’s four steps we think might help you as you figure out how to parent for faith at Halloween.
1. Do some thinking in advance
So often when we parent, we have to make decisions pretty much on the spot. The joy of Halloween is that you know it’s coming up, so you have time now to decide what you think about it, so that you’re prepared well in advance.
- Remember that Christians throughout time have wrestled with the problem of how to live in this world, whatever that looks like, while honouring God. In New Testament times, that meant working out whether to eat meat offered to idols, and since then Christians have had to make decisions about whether slavery is acceptable, and work out how to respond to corrupt or evil governments.
- You may want to do some reading around what Halloween is. Do ask others what’s helped them, and we have a few suggestions of where you might start in our post Exploring Different Responses to Halloween.
- Chat to other parents, carers and wise people you know. What do they think? How have they managed things in their family? Have they ever changed their mind?
- Chat to God too. Ask him what he thinks and what’s right for your family.
2. Consider what it might look like for your family this year
Every family is different – every child is different – and so your choices will depend on what is healthy and good for you. There is no manual for Christian parents on Halloween – just a figuring out of what you feel God is asking you to do. And as your children grow and change, your decisions around Halloween may change too – and that’s OK.
- What is God saying to you personally this year about Halloween?
- What are your boundaries? Do you have any strong feelings about what might be acceptable and what is definitely not?
- Consider the age and personalities of your children. Are they able to distinguish ‘real’ from ‘not real’? Are they fearful or not fazed at all by the scary stuff?
- Think about what’s going on in your area. If your church is running a Light Party, then that might mean you don’t have to worry about the invite to go trick and treating at the same time. If the kids’ school has a dress up day, what will you do? Will there be trick and treating down your road? Are there opportunities to engage with the community in a positive way? Check out exploring ways to respond to trick or treaters for some ideas.
Questions like this will help you to work out what you need to decide.
3. Talk about it with your family
One of the things that our kids need to learn is how to figure out, as a Christian, is how to live well in a world that isn’t always God-honouring. By involving them in conversations like this you are modelling how to do this well.
- When they are old enough, chat to them. What do they think about Halloween? How do they feel? What would they like to do? Where appropriate let them be part of the decision-making.
- Share with them what you feel and think about Halloween so they understand your decisions. Be prepared for great conversations!
4. Decide what you’ll be doing this year
Make your plans so you’re all clear about what you’re doing. Remind them that every family’s different and it’s okay to do your own thing.
- Frame (explain) your decisions well, so children hear the ‘whys’, not just the ‘whats’. For example, ‘We’re going to go trick and treating, because it’s a way we can be friendly to our neighbours and bless them’, or ‘I know you like scary stuff, but we’re not letting you go to see that movie, because once those pictures and ideas are in your head you can’t get rid of them easily’. If you take away the cute ghost picture your toddler painted at nursery, you might say, ‘I’m sorry, I know you painted that so carefully, but in our family, we don’t want to celebrate scary stuff, we want to celebrate all the good things God is and does.’
- Give them their ‘yeses’: it might be easy for children to focus on what they can’t do, so it’s helpful to show them what they can do. ‘No, you can’t have that costume there, but you can have any of these’. ‘I’m really sorry you’ll have to say to Nic that you can’t go trick and treating, but why don’t we invite him to go out with us at the weekend?’
- Check how they are feeling about the decisions you’ve made: if they’re feeling sad, frustrated or angry, or if they are scared about the bits of Halloween they will do or see.
- Coach them in anything they need to know: how to turn down an invitation to a Halloween party, what will happen at the Light Party, how to explain to a teacher that they’d rather not do that Halloween craft, what to do if they see anything that scares them.
For more about Halloween, see our Halloween topic; we also have Facebook Lives you can watch on Making up your mind on Halloween for under 5s, 5s to 11s, and pre-teens and teens, and Dealing with the Supernatural for all three age groups.