Tricks and treats are de rigueur on Halloween, and part of the fun for kids is introducing a little bit of creepiness into the festivities. After all, we decorate our houses with all manner of ghost, goblin and eerie symbols; we dress up in scary costumes, and we go door-to-door in the black of night, meeting horrific creatures along the way.
Kids appreciate a well-placed witch hanging from a tree limb and a spooky soundtrack to greet their knock on the door, but sometimes parents take it too far. Startling a kid when he discovers that a spider drops from the door when bell rings is par for the course and part of the fun on Halloween. Playing a prank on a kid that’s so scary and deranged it would give an adult nightmares, just because it’s Halloween and it feels like anything goes, is simply cruel.
Of course, it’s easy to lose sight of boundaries on a night that deifies spirits and spectacles, so here’s a primer to help you keep things kid-friendly this year:
Creatively pranking your math class? Awesome.
A chainsaw-wielding maniac chasing kids off the verandah after they’ve collected their loot? Too far.
Devising a costume that will turn heads and entertain? Awesome.
Convincing your kid that every ghost story she’s ever heard is real? Too far.
Children expect a little bit of spookiness on Halloween, but they also expect that the adults in their lives are trustworthy and will protect them from scary things, not put them straight into the boogeyman’s clutches. There is no tough love lesson to be learned by playing these tricks on kids; you are only teaching them that your entertainment trumps their sense of security and dignity. And thanks to sites like YouTube, Facebook and Vine, your child’s humiliation is but a click away for all of eternity!
It’s a parent’s prerogative to prank (and tape) their child for their own twisted pleasure, but before you put that mask on and hide in the closet with the video recorder, consider this: it’s also your bed the kids will be crawling back into until the nightmares finally fade.