‘Tis the season – in my opinion, the MOST WONDERFUL TIME OF THE YEAR!! (I absolutely LOVE Halloween!!).
There are, in fact, those who believe it’s possible my family goes a little too far when it comes to getting into the spirit of the season. There was that one year when I guess the neighbourhood kids found the combination of the front lawn graveyard complete with body parts sticking out of leaf piles (perhaps occasionally replaced by my big brother who would jump out at people) PLUS the Blair Witch Project stick figures hanging from a porch roof a LEETLE intimidating, as evidenced by the distinct drop in the number of trick-or-treaters, usually around 400-500, to about…uh…3. (We heard whispers at other houses of, “Are you going to that really SCARY house? I’m staying away from there!!”) Reluctantly, we toned it down a touch after that….
Now I focus my energy on my pumpkins and their costumes…oh, and of course, carving my jack-o-lanterns too!
This year we’ve gone with a Despicable Me 2 theme for Ben and Molly:
Of course, with Ben at “big kid school” now, with the season comes a crash course in Halloween safety. Don’t get me wrong – I’m all for safety but the emphasis on CHECK YOUR CANDY AND DON’T EAT ANYTHING THAT’S LOOKS STRANGE OR IS OPEN OR IS NOT PREPACKAGED OR IS HOMEMADE OR IS PURPLE BECAUSE SOME NAMELESS FACELESS STRANGER WHO IS ALSO YOUR NEIGHBOUR COULD BE GETTING HIS OR HER JOLLIES OFF FOR UNKNOWN REASONS BY PUTTING ANTHRAX OR RAZORBLADES* IN IT.
Yes, stuff happens, and there are creepy strangers in the world, but for the most part, we are coming to realize as a society that “stranger danger” has been blown way out of proportion and that the greatest dangers to children in terms of being deliberately harmed stems from those people closest to them.
As such, I have gone with a strategy with Ben and Molly of emphasizing talking openly with trusted adults and not keeping other people’s secrets. They know that they can talk to me and Ian about anything without judgement, and they can ask us any question and we will give them the best answer we can. They also know that they do not have to keep a secret that someone else, especially an adult, asks them to, and again, if in doubt, they can talk to us.
When Ben came home from school talking about these Halloween safety videos telling him not to eat any opened or homemade treats because they could be tampered with and to get his parents to check all of his candy, I had two concerns:
First, the emphasis on poisoned treats creates anxiety around a danger that is statistically insignificant while ignoring the true hazards (Hello, choking hazards? Allergies?).
Second, giving the child all of these rules to consider places the responsibility on him or her instead of on the grown-ups (“I know I’m supposed to get my parents to check it, but as long as I take out all of the broken packages and homemade treats, I can eat ALL THE THINGS!! Woo hoo!”).
I reframed the rules to fit our family’s paradigm (Oh yeah: Two 50c child studies words FTW!):
“I think what the video was trying to tell you was to make sure that you ask a grown-up before you open any of your treats.”
“Lots of reasons: You could be allergic to something; it could be a choking hazard for you or Molly; it could be dirty or have germs on it or have gone bad; like the video showed you, someone could have done something to it that could hurt you, but that doesn’t happen very often at all; and of course you could get sick if you eat too much of your candy all at once. That’s why you should always show your candy to a grown-up, like me or daddy, and ask us for permission first before you eat any of it.”
When it comes to raising “street-safe” kids, an open line of communication with a trusted adult is far more effective than unnecessary anxiety around non-existent shadowy strangers.
The most important safety rule of all, whether it involves eating Halloween candy, keeping a secret, or meeting that nice boy you’ve been chatting with on Facebook, is Always. Ask. First.
*Seriously. Do they even make razorblades any more? I’m trying to picture someone concealing a Lady Bic or a Schick Intuition in a caramel apple and it’s just not working.
After a pre-Halloween trick-or-treat session last year, I gave the kids free access to their bags of candy after riffling through it in a cursory manner. Some time later Denton came to me in tears, and said, “I keep chewing and chewing this candy, but it isn’t going away!”
(It was bubblegum, wrapped in a metallic foil that had fooled me for being chocolate coins.)