This year I had the idea to take my kids “reverse trick or treating”. This is when the kids dress up to walk around and hand out candy to others. I felt the need to teach my kids to have a heart of giving at another time of the year besides Christmas. As a family at Christmas we always reach out to a family in need in the community and send shoe boxes overseas for children. I wanted to help my kids see that it doesn’t just have to be that holiday to step out of ourselves to pay it forward. I get so used to the normal whiny child egocentric phrases “I want” and “mine” that I thought it was good to introduce balance by giving! At first when I introduced the idea I got the arms folded with a pouty face and “But I want candy”, which at that time I explained that they would get candy when they trick or treat on Halloween. I invited a girlfriend to go with her kids with our goal being to give to 50 people (we had 50 pieces of candy).
We went to our local police department, fire station, and town hall to pass out candy to others. We got many shocked faces, thank you’s, and confusion as our kids ran to each person with a piece of candy and made them say “trick or treat”! By the end of our time, the kids were happy to give! Mission accomplished!
I work with many kids and teens who are being raised in a society that teaches “I deserve” and “I’m entitled”. The damage of this mind set for kids and on their futures is a perfect storm waiting to happen if it is not balanced out. Believe me I am not out to “ruin trick or treating”, but I do feel a strong obligation to educate my kids that it’s not all about them all the time. A self-absorbed child who is imbalanced will be hit hard when they enter the real world and adult relationships. I encourage you to take steps to have your children “pay it forward”. Whether it’s giving old toys away to a shelter, volunteering your time as a family, making something for kids in the hospital, or even visiting an aging adult in your neighborhood who as trouble getting out. This will help your child to step out of their “ME” world and think about others needs too!
This was such a fun time as a parent to watch my kids learn this challenging concept. I already have some friends who have invited themselves along for next year. I think we have a new tradition! If you have any other thoughts on how to pay it forward with your kids please share!
Written by Teri Claassen MSW, LCSW
Teri Claassen MSW, LCSW is a licensed therapist at Imagine Hope Counseling Group. Teri enjoys doing marriage counseling, individual counseling, couples and relationship counseling. Teri also does family counseling, child counseling, and adolescent counseling. Imagine Hope serves the Indianapolis area, including the surrounding areas of Carmel, Fishers, Noblesville, Zionsville, and Westfield.