Parenting Our Children

Use Halloween Fun to Build a Stronger Community

Published Monday, October 13, 2014

By Peter A. Gorski, M.D., M.P.A.

Children of all ages anticipate the October holiday of ghosts, goblins and bags full of candy. They revel in a wide variety of safe, supervised environments in neighborhoods and business districts. Parents and grandparents warm to the delight of watching their young ones step out of character and into action.

Use Halloween Fun to Build a Stronger CommunityHalloween is one of my favorite holidays for all that fun, but also for another reason. The reason is sadly ironic, I admit. Halloween is one of a very few times each year when I can count on meeting and greeting people who live in my neighborhood. Almost no other occasion brings together all the residents and families who live within a few blocks of each other. Weeks and months can pass without more than a wave or quick hello between next-door neighbors.

On Halloween, however, many people illuminate their homes, open their doors and welcome neighbors and their costumed children onto porches or front entries. Sometimes, adults linger to chat about the street, the year or the family. The contact among neighbors produces an invigorated sense of security about the area. Halloween turns out to be the time I can drop my guard and experience a peaceful sense of community.

To take full advantage of this unique celebration, I suggest you consider a number of opportunities:

• Go trick or treating in your neighborhood, or, if safety is a serious concern where you live, seek out organized, alternative community Halloween experiences with your children and their friends.

• Take the opportunity to chat with old neighbors, new acquaintances and even parents you don't know. Connection and friendship between families builds stronger communities.

• Talk with your child during and afterwards about the friendliness of people you met. If you participated in the traditional door-to-door Halloween experience, consider planning a subsequent group activity or party where lots of your neighbors can come together and continue to get to know one another.

Remember to inspect treats before you let your children eat any, but do go out and scare up some new relationships this Halloween. That's the spirit we all need!

Peter A. Gorski, M.D., M.P.A., is the chief health and child development officer for The Children's Trust.