Dear Parents, It’s Okay to Change Up Holiday Traditions


Dear Parents,

I love Halloween. It’s one of my favorite holidays and has been since I was a kid. I loved picking out a costume, dressing up, and going trick-or-treating. I loved the school carnivals, even if I was never successful at the cakewalk games. In my earlier adult years, I was always sad to live where we didn’t get trick-or-treaters. As a parent in the suburbs now, it’s been a blast to do all of these things again and add pumpkin patch trips to our traditions as well. Sometimes, though, I realize that the kids don’t always feel the same way that I do.

My kids do enjoy Halloween, but they’re good with only trick-or-treating down the long street in our neighborhood instead of doing all three streets. Their school traded out a carnival or fall festival for a trunk-or-treat a few years ago, which they’ve been pretty okay with. They still do enjoy the pumpkin patch—my eldest gets our favorite syrup from there—but they don’t have the same energy that I do about the holiday. I’ve come to the understanding that that’s okay, and over the past year or two, I’ve tried to make an effort to make sure my guilt over pandemic years changing things didn’t cause me to try to make up for it in ways that my kids didn’t care about. So, last year, I was less surprised when they were ready to pack in from trick-or-treating earlier than I would have been. The end result? I had them to bed at a decent time and still got to sit with some extra candy and watch Beetlejuice, so I was honestly pretty happy.

My kids are both in the pre-teen era now, with my older son about to enter the teen years a lot sooner than I want to admit to. It seems reasonable that some of our Halloween traditions will age with them. In our area, they’re still welcome to trick-or-treat, as most adults out here reason that if a teenager shows up at your doorstep on October 31st looking for fun-size candy bars, you hand them one even if they aren’t in a costume because there are far worse things a teenager could be up to. Our boys are looking at a different choice this year, though. Our Taekwon-Do instructor sets up a haunted yard during years when he can get enough volunteers, and my kids apparently inherited a touch of my inner theater kid and decided this sounded like fun. They’ll get to dress up and scare kids. (My older kid is just the right size and agility to fit into some kind of jack-in-the-box jump scare set-up and he is thrilled about this.) They know we’ll still buy a bag of candy for them to split, and there’s still the trunk-or-treat at our younger son’s elementary school they are both welcome to participate in. I will still get to come home and eat candy and watch Beetlejuice, but I get the bonus this year of tapping into my inner theater kid because I get to be part of the haunted yard too.

The important thing for our plans is that my kids are looking forward to it and feel like it should be fun. Traditions are nice and good, but they also need to make some room for flexibility. What is the use of insisting on things if the people they are supposed to bring joy to don’t really get joy out of them? This year is going to be different for us, but I’m okay with it and I think it’s going to be something new and fun for us too. You might say that my real holiday tradition is trying to make things fun within a holiday theme, and I’m willing to add or remove events based on what works for us. So, if your kids are voicing that they don’t want to do a certain party or activity or event this year, maybe it’s time to listen and ask what they might want to do instead. They might even have some fun ideas of their own.

Happy Halloween,


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