Halloween Etiquette for Adults and Kids

syndi-2014-pumpkin-croppedDid you know that, in the U.S., Halloween is the second biggest celebration, next to Christmas? Click here to learn the history behind his celebration and trick or treating. (Also at: http://www.history.com/topics/halloween/history-of-trick-or-treating)

Everyone can have fun celebrating Halloween. Within a year or two of living in your home and neighborhood, you’ll learn whether you will get many trick or treaters. In San Francisco where I grew up, it was non-existent. My parents drove me to other neighborhoods. However, where I live now in Marin, it’s a major celebration with families roaming the neighborhood. Most adults dress up and carry their own drinking vessels to receive pours of mulled wine or other libations between stops; truly making this celebration a family affair.

Here are a few Halloween tips to keep in mind:
1.  Costumes are a must for trick or treating. If people go door-to- door, begging for treats, and don’t bother to dress up, they don’t deserve to receive a treat. I encourage the adults, when accompanying their kids, to wear a costume as well.

  • Make sure the costume fits well and is safe to walk in. When clothes are too loose, tight or too long, held together with safety pins, and with lots of dangling objects or accessories waving around, they can be dangerous and at risk of causing harm.
  • When wearing a mask, remove it when walking or crossing the street. Hold your child’s or have someone not wearing a mask hold his or her hand while walking.
  • When painting your skin, only use non-toxic paints. Do not use regular paints that are intended for painting on paper or other surfaces.
  • Especially in darker, rural areas, use reflective materials when making your own costume or adding some to the store bought costume.

2.  Safety is foremost.  According to Safe Kids Worldwide, it is estimated on the average, twice as many kids are killed while walking on Halloweencompared to other days of the year.  (Also shown at: http://www.safekids.org/search?search_api_views_fulltext=twice+as+many+kids+are+killed+while+walking+on+Halloween+than+any+time+of+the+year)

On the streets: Have each person carry a flashlight or glow stick, especially when sidewalks are unevenly paved.

  • Remind your child never, ever to dash across the street without checking for cars, even in your own neighborhood.
  • Do not allow your kids to trick-or-treat by themselves. Again, Safe Kids Worldwide “found that as many as 12 percent of kids 5 and under are permitted by parents to trick or treat alone without them.” This is unconscionable. (See again: http://www.safekids.org/media-center)
  • Especially for kids under 12, every parent or guardian should accompany their children, especially when crossing streets. In many areas, streets are crowded with adults and kids in costumes that could make it difficult to see cars and other obstacles.

At home: Remove all items on your lawn, staircase and walkways. Use reflective tape on all items a person could trip over, such as a sprinkler head. Move your car to a location where it won’t obstruct a child’s full few of traffic in front of your house.

Turn on your front porch light and leave it on as long as you have treats to hand out. Turn it off when you’ve run out of candy, to indicate you will not be offering treats.

3. Save the scary decorating for later. Decorated homes show me the owner has a fun loving spirit. Some decorations can be frightening to younger kids, so keep them on the more on the lighter side. If you truly want to make things a bit scarier, do it later in the evening, when the older kids are still out and about.

  • Make sure all lights are in good condition, without any frayed wires.
  • Use plastic hooks and clips instead of metal to reduce the risk of electrical shock.
  • Use heavy-duty extension cords and avoid overloading extension cords for electrical Halloween decorations.
  • And keep candles away from curtains, paper decorations, or other flammable materials.

4. Sealed treats are a must. Always give individually wrapped items that are well sealed. Unless you know your neighbors well, handmade treats, such as cookies, candied apples, popcorn balls, are items most parents will not allow kids to keep and eat.
Although this is the one time of year most kids are allow to enjoy an abundance of sweets, the trend is to find treats that are safe, fun, and as nutritious as possible. You might consider giving out fun pencils, erasers, or little toys that can be an equally fun treat.
Smile when greeting the children.

4. Handing out treats:  Always smile as each child approaches.  After they say, “trick or treat,” think of a fun comment to share about their costumes. After the children say “thank you,” respond with “you’re welcome,” and not “no problem.”

Never feel obligated to give more than one piece per child. Should a child ask for more, you may choose to give another piece or politely decline with explanation. Never allow a child to take a handful of treats. It’s not only rude, but when other kids see this taking place, you could cause quite an unpleasant frenzy. My suggestion is not to put all your treats in one big bowl. Rather, place them in a smaller bowl to keep refilling. Any leftovers can be brought to the office or donated to a local church, school, or charity.

5. Brief your trick-or-treaters days in advance: Review the basic guidelines to good manners and behaving nicely while out. Do not do it just before leaving the house. By then, they will be too excited and anxious to get going. Remind them to:

  • Agree on a timeline and agenda for the evening so no arguments will arise. Younger kids are out and done earlier in the evening than older kids, generally ending by 8:30 to 9:00p.m.
  • Agree to eat light dinner or supper before heading out that will fill their stomachs, so they’ll be less likely to fill themselves up with unhealthy treats while trick-or-treating. If you don’t have time for dinner, something simple such as veggies and dip or pita bread and hummus are fast, easy to serve and nutritious.
  • Always say “Trick or Treat” upon approaching a house and “Thank You” when receiving their treat and leaving.
  • Not be rude, disrespectful, unkind in any way, or make faces about what has been given.
  • Never grab more than one item. If they want more, ask… “May I have one more piece?
  • No shoving or pushing other trick or treaters to get ahead of any line.
  • Have fun, keep all voices down, and do not yell.
  • Do not eat anything given out along the way, unless they get permission from you.

6. Inspect all treats before your kids eat them. Remind your child that an adult must inspect all treats before they will be allowed to eat them. Discard all candy or other food items with torn or faded wrappers, or anything unwrapped. Instruct your child to separate homemade items from people you know well, to enjoy later. For younger children, separate and remove all candy or other items that could be hazardous in any way, including choking.

7. Pace yourself when eating the treats. By the next day, divide the treats up into small baggies, allowing everyone—including the adults—to only eat a specified number of pieces of candy per day and per week. Gorging on eating the candy all at once is not a healthy strategy. Obviously, choose to eat the pieces that are more perishable first, and save the others for the next few weeks. Most candy lasts a long time.

8. Alternate ways to celebrate on this day: Here’s a great article on “Trick or Treating Alternatives to Going Door to Door… Keep Kids Safe with 10 Trick or Treating Alternatives.” (Also at: http://stayathomemoms.about.com/od/halloween/a/trickortreating.htm)

That’s it for this month’s article.  What other tips to you have to share to insure everyone is safe and has fun on Halloween!

Happy Practicing!

P.S. The image of the pumpkin in this article was hand carved by yours truly (Syndi Seid) during a fun Halloween pumpkin carving event my husband’s family, The Hildebrands, hold almost every year.  Try holding a pumpkin carving event of your own.  It’s truly a great activity for youths and adults of all ages, to let yourself go and get creative!

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