As a child, some of my happiest memories were of trick-or-treating with my sister on Halloween. We would walk up and down the familiar neighborhood street with pillowcases in hand, dressed up as our favorite character. The best treats were the homemade treats we received…cupcakes and popcorn balls. No parental supervision was needed. Neighbors knew one another. Neighbors looked out for one another. It was a different time. It was a more innocent time.
By the time my kids were old enough to trick-or-treat, times were not quite so innocent. First there was the scare of tainted candy. Then there was the scare of razor blades placed in apples. Gone were the homemade treats that used to be lovingly placed in trick-or-treat bags. Suddenly parents were encouraged to take their children’s candy to the local hospital to have it x-rayed. Parents were also encouraged to thoroughly examine each individual piece of candy to make sure it was sealed tightly. We did not know everyone in our neighborhood, so I always had to go with the kids as they trick-or-treated. Sometimes we even drove to a neighborhood in a safer part of the city to trick-or-treat. That’s just the way it was.
As I was recently watching little kids going through the department store checkout line with their Halloween costumes, a thought came to me. What makes it okay for us to accept and almost glorify little kids dressed up as serial killers or other questionable characters? Back when I was growing up, we dressed up as very fictional characters…vampires, werewolves, zombies. The characters many kids dress up like today are not fantasy. They are real. Serial killers are in the news all the time. Mass murderers are in the news all the time. Some of those murderers have even taken it upon themselves to march into our schools and gun down children. Still, we see little kids dressed up for Halloween wearing serial killer masks, carrying a toy gun or a machete. Does this not desensitize kids in regard to the real dangers that are out there in the world?
Fantasy is good. Halloween is supposed to be a fun time for kids, and a time they can dress up and be someone else for a night. I personally believe that it is the responsibility of parents to pay attention and set some boundaries in regard to Halloween. Let your child know that certain characters and costumes are not okay to wear. Explain to them why. Also, make sure your children trick-or-treat safely. Supervise them and make sure they only trick-or-treat at the homes of people you know. Better yet, have a Halloween party that you can supervise. Boundaries are a good thing. Parents need to put some in place in regard to Halloween.