Instilling Identity In Your Kids This Halloween

Most Christian blogs on Halloween I have read assume that there are two basic camps for how Christian families celebrate this holiday: those who fully participate in order to be on mission, and those whose convictions lead them to opt out of celebrating at all. In my experience, however, it’s not that black and white. There are many different shades between these two options. Here are some examples of different ways I’ve seen families approach this holiday:

  • Participating in “fall festivals” or “trunk or treats”, but not in general trick-or-treating
  • Allowing their children to dress up as things in creation or Biblical characters only
  • Giving out candy, but not participating otherwise
  • Putting a grill out front and spending time with neighbors who are out celebrating, but not dressing up or going trick-or-treating themselves

In truth, there are probably as many different ways for Christians to celebrate Halloween as there are Christian families, because each family is different. That fact makes posts like “Halloween Is Not Important” from Jessica Thompson, which encourages us to remember that how we celebrate Halloween doesn’t change our standing before God, very good reading.

But this post is not about convincing you that one way to celebrate is better than another. It’s also not a post about not judging those who celebrate differently from you, though I believe that is important, too. Rather, I want to talk about what happens once you and your spouse have decided how your family will celebrate Halloween. How do you help your kids, who may feel like they are missing out, understand and support your decisions?

“Because I Said So” Isn’t Enough

When a child challenges a parent’s decision, the quickest and easiest thing to say is, “Because I said so!” While parents have been given responsibility to lead their children, this answer does nothing to help your children grow in understanding of God, His Word, or how to use wisdom and discernment to obey the Lord. So, when your son or daughter asks why they can’t trick or treat like everyone else, or why they can’t go to their friend’s Halloween party, “Because I said so” isn’t the best response.

Be On the Same Team

When we as parents say, “You need to do this because I think it’s best,” we’re pitting our children against us. We’re placing us on opposite sides of a debate, where their wills need to be submitted to ours. Instead of putting ourselves at odds with our children, we need to work to show them that we are on the same team.

The small shift from “you” to “we” is a powerful one. Telling your kids, “We don’t trick-or-treat,” is a far more powerful statement than “I’m telling you that you can’t trick-or-treat.” It has more power because it first reminds our children that they have an identity as part of our family, rather than a purely individual identity. Using the word “we” in our correction moves the conversation from merely modifying behavior to reminding our children who they truly are, and helping them live out that identity.

Activity Flows From Identity

The principle that our activity flows from our identity is seen throughout Scripture, where God frequently reminds us who we are before telling us how to live. Take the book of Ephesians, for example. The first three chapters are all about what God has done for us in Christ. It’s not until the second half of the book, after firmly establishing our identity as God’s beloved children, that Paul begins to instruct the church.

We can apply this principle to our homes by first reminding our kids who they are before we instruct them about Halloween or about anything else. Let me give you an example from my family.

“Murchisons Celebrate What Is Good”

In our home, we have chosen to celebrate Halloween as a fun, cultural holiday. We love making the kids’ costumes and joining with our neighbors in trick-or-treating. However, my wife and I also feel strongly that the dark, scary, and evil parts of the holiday are not to be celebrated. For that reason, if one of my daughters one day wanted to dress up as a zombie, we would have a talk that looks something like this:

“Waverly, I know that you want to be a zombie for halloween, but let me explain to you why Murchisons won’t do that. As Murchisons, we want to honor God and obey His Word, and in the Bible it says that we need to celebrate and think on what is good. In fact, Philippians 4:8 says ‘Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.’ There are a lot of options for what you can be for Halloween, but we need to make sure it is pure, lovely, and worthy of praise. Do you think that a zombie is those things?”

Simply saying “You can’t be a zombie,” would probably just make my daughter upset. Instead, starting with her identity as a Murchison, as part of our family, helps her think through how her decisions impact the family and gives us a chance to explain our reasoning behind the decision.

Parent Like God Parents Us

Starting with identity rather than activity is one way that we can parent our kids as God parents us. Let’s look to our perfect heavenly Father for guidance on how to love, lead, and instruct our children in this Halloween season, and in all times.