Thursday, October 29, 2009

Happy Halloween!

Among other things, Halloween is a holiday that brings to mind creative dress up, food, youngsters roaming neighborhoods, sounds of running feet and laughter, neighbors saying ‘hi’ to each other and safety concerns of parents and neighborhoods.

Halloween offers an opportunity to move beyond candy to old fashion porch sitting and friendship building. The list of 40 Developmental Assets provide guidelines for how this year’s Halloween experience can be enjoyable for the kid in all of us and help build a caring neighborhood (asset #4). Halloween is a great opportunity for getting to know neighbors, have fun and make the holiday last a little bit longer.

• Get with other neighbors and make goodies together for parties or for distribution at the candy door as well as to carve pumpkins and share costume ideas.

• Have a neighborhood party with apple cider or hot chocolate, bobbing for apples, piƱatas, funky music, horseshoes, ghost stories and the like. A party can set up a sense of safety even before the real trick or treating begins by letting neighbors get to know all the children better AND it’s a great way to swap stories and share any cultural or traditional games that families hold dear.

Sending a Message of Welcome and Safety on Halloween:
• The general rule of thumb still applies: if you don’t want trick or treaters at your door or you’re going to be out of town, don’t light up the front door. If you do want to enjoy and get to know the youngsters in your neighborhood, as clearly as possible, light the path and door that you want them to come to indicating a welcoming place and a safe place.

• If it’s great weather outside, sit outside and enjoy nature while extending a further invitation of welcome and safety.

Make all trick or treaters feel special and welcome. This can be done in a variety of ways:

• Greet those you know by name. If you recognize children or teens from your neighborhood but don’t know their names, ask and tell them yours in return.

• Find something to comment on in how they’re dressed. Be wowed by pretty princesses and scared by Freddie Kruggers.

• Use the costumes to engage in conversation. Did they make them? Was it hard to choose what costume to pick? Briefly share from your trick or treating days when appropriate. Were you a superhero when you were a trick or treater? Which one was your favorite? If Superman shows up, tell him who you were and ask who would win in a showdown: him or Batman. You’ll be surprised at how much fun you can have chatting away.

When it’s All Over:
It’s tempting after a holiday to hone in on work and get back to business. Resist! If you’ve made strides in getting to know the children and teens in your neighborhood, keep it up! Being courteous and extending welcome and acceptance to those around us should be a continuing practice of courtesy, caring and respect.
• Wave at children when you’re walking or driving through the neighborhood.
• Stop and ask how they made out after the big night and let them tell you their stories.
• Continue to use their names – if you forgot, ask again. Even better, keep a list of neighbor’s names, as you meet them..
• Ask about other things in their life and discover new connections: school, interests, hobbies, the next big holiday, etc.

Halloween is the one holiday each year that works on an open door policy. Take advantage of that to extend and receive welcome, offer hospitality, laugh and meet new people, create a sense of safety in the neighborhood and get to know others in playful ways that are harmless and fun. Then, when it’s all over, continue to smile, greet and interact with your neighbors (old and young!) and feel that much better about where you live and what you’ve done to make it a safe, fun place for children to grow up.