It’s that time of year again, when tombstones and ghouls invade the neighborhood, replacing the cheerful colors of the summer past with death’s darker theme in orange and black. I have not celebrated Halloween for twenty-six years, and I barely endured the holiday before that. When my children were very young, I thought I’d be a good mommy and do the deed. I sewed cute costumes for them. The kindergartner was a rabbit, the four-year-old a lion, and the toddler was a teddy bear. I bought candy for my husband to hand out to the neighborhood, while I trudged through freshly fallen snow with my small troop. My son wouldn’t keep his jacket zippered, though, because lions don’t wear jackets. The next day, all three were sick in bed, and my son wound up with pneumonia.
Personal views aside, just what is Halloween, and what does it teach our children? Is it really a harmless custom, allowing the children to dress up and engage in make-believe? Or could it be more sinister? If I were to write a lesson plan for Halloween, what concepts would the children be learning? Perhaps, my list might include…
Concepts Children May Learn from Halloween
- People die and are buried in the ground.
- We put tombstones on the grave to mark the place.
- We write irreverent poems on the tombstones.
- Ghosts and goblins haunt cemeteries.
- Black cats are a sign something bad is going to happen.
- Some people turn into vampires when they die, and drink blood.
- Witches are ugly and cast spells on us.
- Some witches eat children. (Remember Hansel and Gretel?)
- It’s okay to knock on the doors of strangers and beg.
- It’s okay to take candy from a stranger.
Now, is there anything on that list that you actually want your child to learn?
Research Suggests Halloween is Scarier Than You Think
Dr. Cynthia Dell Clark, Associate and Fellow of the Center for Children and Childhood Studies, conducted a three-year study on the effects of Halloween on young children. She writes that parents underestimate the effect of Halloween horror on young children. While we realize that it is all just make-believe, young children have a harder time differentiating between imaginary and real.
And Halloween is definitely getting scarier! When we were children, costumes were usually home-made. We dressed up like characters in books or cartoons. You might have met Superman, Snow White, and Rin Tin Tin knocking on your door. These days, vampires and zombies far outnumber the more benign beings. That young children even know what vampires or zombies are, is something I find unbelievably tragic.
The CDC reports that children are four times more likely to be hit by a car on Halloween than any other time of the year. Children have also been known to suffer eye injuries from their costumes, or burns from flammable costumes. Some face paints have been found to be toxic, yet masks pose a greater threat by obstructing the child’s vision.
Then, right away in November, we began the cycle again with Thanksgiving songs and poems, Thanksgiving stories to read or write, and a Thanksgiving party to plan. When December arrived, no one had much enthusiasm or energy left to handle Christmas. Santa Claus got a little attention, Jesus got none, and we all looked forward to January when “life could return to normal”.
So before you do your share to contribute to the shaky economy by purchasing quantities of candy and costumes, just step back and reflect for a few moments. Is this something you really want your child to learn?
Relating Reading Material:
- Who Is Raising Your Child: Battling the Marketeers for Your Child’s Heart and Soul by Laura J. Buddenburg, Kathleen M. McGee
- “Mommy, I’m Scared”: How TV and Movies Frighten Children and What We Can Do to Protect Them by Joanne Cantor PH.D.
- Satan, You Can;t Have My Children: The spiritual warfare guide for every parent by Iris Delgado
- The Anxiety Cure for Kids: A Guide for Parents by Elizabeth DuPont Spencer, Robert L. Dupon, Caroline M. DuPont