Halloween Tricks for Parents

by: Terry Ternyila

Making traditions makes memories. Halloween doesn’t have to be all about the candy. We have so many memories of pumpkin farms, carving Jack-O-Lanterns, decorating the yard, and making spooky or funny costumes. Halloween should be a fun holiday for kids and parents. Here are some tips that my family has found useful:

Encourage Creativity

Encourage kids to think of costumes that are original and something they can make on their own or with you. Some of our best Halloweens were when we had the one-of-a-kind costume, like using a box as a Rubik’s cube or yarn, a hat and glasses to make Cousin It from the Addams family.

Come up with a family theme – see if you can get the whole family involved in the idea and dress up. We love to find ideas that get the whole family dressed up and include the dogs too, like Wizard of Oz or Pirates!

Go Out with Friends, Ghouls and Spirits

Plan to go out with friends.  It doesn’t have to be all about the kids; it can also be fun parent-time to walk around chatting with friends while the kids run door-to-door. A little travel cup with “spirits” in it always makes the night better too.

Kids Are Unpredictable

If you have little ones those bags get heavy or sometimes they just need a little break, bring a wagon to put stuff in or just give a little ride if you need to. By the end of the night I know half of the costumes have come off. You can bring jackets or a blanket with you for those chilly nights.  You can bring water with you and maybe even the dog wants to come along. It is better to be prepared for whatever happens, and the wagon certainly makes it easy.

The Real Treat Is Giving

It doesn’t always have to be about collecting candy, either. Kids have just as much fun giving out candy, and some may be less interested in all the walking around or costumes. We have always had dogs, so the door knocking can just be a lot. Set-up some chairs out front for your kids to sit and watch all the people walking dressed up. Let them hand out the candy and enjoy the fun of giving too!

Party in the Front Yard!

This is also a good time if you want to sit with your neighbors out front to chat while you hand out candy.  Pull the grill out front with some chairs and cooks up some burgers. Maybe you have a fire pit table or portable fire pit.  Make it a fun night to catch up with friends or family. Invite the grandparents over to watch.

Introduce: the Buy-Back Candy Program

The kids love going door-to-door, but they usually end up with more candy than any of us would like them to consume.  Once we got home the kids would always dump out their candy and sort it.  They would do some trading for favorites.  Then we would offer to “buy back” candy. We had a 2-cup measuring cup, and we would pay $1 for every 2 cups they would dump back in our bag for the trick or treaters.

The kids would go through their candy and pull out what they didn’t really want and what they were willing to part with and we would give them the cash to spend on a toy or save for something they wanted. This became very popular in our house and really cut down on the loads of sugary sweets they had, and it even gave them a little lesson on the value of a dollar.

It’s unlikely you’ll have enough trick or treaters to take all of these candies in your Buy-Back Program, you can check local shelters that will take the donation, or otherwise candy never fails to disappear when left unattended in a breakroom.

Although adults now, my 3 kids still look forward to doing these traditions long after growing out of the trick-or-treating phase, and those are some of my favorite memories. No matter how you choose to celebrate the day with your family, make memories and traditions.

Happy Halloween everyone!!

Conquer the Stress of Back to School

September for most of us is a reminder: back to school!  With that brings a lot of stress for parents. All the extra expenses of school supplies, new clothes and backpacks, getting the kids up early and out the door while still getting to work on time. Add into that the daily fights for homework, showers and bedtimes… Here are some tips for conquering the “Back to School Stress” from a mom who has survived it, 20 years in a row.

The one part of back to school that I enjoyed was the organizing. I am a nut for organizing, and although my kids were not all as enthusiastic about it, I know it made their lives a little easier.  

  • Calendar – One trick I learned was hanging a dry erase calendar in the kitchen. Each family member had a different color marker so we could track activities and appointments, then later as they grew: all the work schedules. There are apps that also will do this and share electronically to all members if that works better for you, but having everyone on board to see what is going on is great.  Often with after school activities, one parent is running around with the kids, so it’s good to be able to look to see where others may be at and when you will get home.  You can also plan in advance when you know days are going to be crazy, so plan an easy dinner or set up a carpool schedule to help.
  • School supplies – The schools have at least gotten better about giving you the list before school begins so you can bargain shop before everything is out of stock. Nothing was worse than the night after the first day of school, everyone is in the store fighting for the last 5-subject notebook.  I know when I would see deals on 1 cent notebooks or dollar store composition books I would buy them to keep for the next year. After school starts if you see the sales, pick up some extra supplies and keep a box in a closet. You will always need extra. 
  • Color coordinate – I would try to color coordinate notebooks & folders for the same subjects for each kid…green would be science, math would be blue, etc. It made it easier for them to grab in their lockers. 
  • Inbox – Have one spot in your home for all papers that you need to see and complete. If you have more than one child, perhaps a wall box with folders for each kid that they can put papers for you to sign and you can put back for them to put back into their bags.
  • Routine – Setting a routine is key to sanity. Setting the expectation with kids is also important. Each kid was different when it came to needs. Some needed more hand holding and some were very independent. So not all routines and expectations are the same. Have a time that homework needs to be done by. My oldest liked to get it done and not think about it about it but my youngest needed down time after school and was better if she did her homework later. A slower schedule, especially if you have more children, will help keep the peace. My youngest, since she was slower in getting ready in the mornings and prefered to sleep as late as possible, would be on a night shower schedule. Right after dinner she needed to get in and get it done, as she also did not like going to bed early so she would drag it out.   Finding what each child needs and how to build a structure for it will make everyone’s lives a little easier.
  • Lunches – One of my least favorite things was the lunches, so everyone knew I would make their lunch with resentment. And it showed.  Since I did not like to prepare lunches, my husband would take that role over for me. He enjoyed making their lunches special by cutting their sandwiches funny or leaving notes for them with a joke or an “I love you”.  This task did not bother him so it worked out better that he would handle that. The key here is to prep the night before instead of waiting for the morning, or delegate.
  • Communication is key – Talk about what is overwhelming you and find a solution. You don’t have to just keep feeling that way. It’s good to talk with the kids on what they can do to help you. It’s also good to talk to them to see if they are feeling overwhelmed and if there are things you can do to help them out too.  Some routines just need adjusting until everyone is in a good place. When something isn’t working, change it up.  Work as a team. There were days when I did not have the patience for the homework sit-down and my husband would take over.  Some tasks were more stressful for me than him so we would work that out.
  • Life/work balance – Set aside some time for yourself, walking with a girlfriend or going out for coffee to just have some “me” time is crucial to the life/work balance. Because let’s face it, being a mom is a full time job so you have to make sure you give yourself time to yourself.

I don’t miss the days of the busy school mornings, shooting like a drill sergeant every morning, get up, get dress, get your shoes on, get your lunch, grab your backpack…lets go out the door. 

September, as I see it, is a time to get back to a schedule. Even though my kids are all adults, I still look forward to getting organized and back on a routine again. We are more than half way through the year, we just made it through the summer. Time to regroup and focus.