Halloween is one of the best nights of the year, and one I remember fondly throughout my childhood: making costumes, eating candy and staying out late with friends. What's not to love? As a parent, I am once again swept up in the excitement and anticipation of heading out into the cold Autumn evening with my kids and their friends to celebrate this event.

Childhood, after all, should be a magical time filled with fun and adventure. However, it also good for our kids to appreciate all that they have and to understand that despite life's many challenges, they often pale in comparison to what countless children throughout the world must endure. While it is not reasonable to expect children, or for that matter anyone, to solve the world's problems, it is beneficial to all of us to raise awareness about some of these issues and to help out when we can. Even just a little bit of thoughtfulness can make a difference and teach our kids valuable lessons about compassion and empathy. 

Here are some simple ways to make it happen.

1. Support UNICEF

Trick-or-Treat for Unicef is one of the longest running youth volunteer initiatives in this country, going back 64 years. While they are out trick-or-treating, children collect any amount of change that a house is willing to spare and donate it to UNICEF. This money goes toward providing food, medicine, clean water, education, and emergency relief for children in need throughout the world.

2. Volunteer Your Time

Volunteering is a great way for parents and children to get involved in their community and help people in need. Volunteer at a local event like a haunted house or a Halloween party. It need not require a lot of time, can be fun, and is a great way to make new friends and be a involved with your neighborhood. Learn more at your local church, school, or library.

3. Provide Candy

We don't realize that in some neighborhoods, large groups of kids passing through requires a lot of candy. If your kids and their friends are visiting areas outside the vicinity of your home, why not have them provide candy to one or two of the houses they visit? It's a nice gesture that is usually appreciated and raises your kids' awareness about helping out and sharing.

4. Encourage Your Kids to Be Inclusive

Nothing is more discouraging than being left out of the fun, so kids should be encouraged to include as many kids as possible. Purposefully excluding a child is cruel and vindictive, not to mention a subtle form of bullying. When children are thoughtful enough to include everyone, it is a sign of compassion and empathy, and a way to make them feel good about themselves and make new friends.

5. Help Out Your School

Schools usually celebrate Halloween in some form or another, and as we all know, they are strapped for money and will welcome assistance in its many forms. This includes donations of materials, candy, and of course, your time. To find out more, talk to your local school administrators to find out what their needs are and what you and your kids can do to help.

6. Have Your Kids Give Out Candy

While Halloween seems like it's all about dressing up and hoarding candy, being the one to actually hand the stuff out is more fun than you think. Kids can experience the rewards of giving, not to mention the benefits of helping out. Bear in mind, kids don't have to spend the whole night at home doing this, and can leave plenty of time to trick-or-treat themselves.

7. Pick Up Litter

Even though we are more conscientious about garbage than ever, litter still happens. When you have dozens of kids eating candy, wrappers and packaging will end up on the ground. Teach your kids to pick up litter when they see it, even if it isn't theirs. This raises consciousness and teaches them to have pride in their surroundings.

8. Share Their Candy

In an ideal world, every child will get equal amounts of all the stuff they want, but let's face it, that never happens. At the end of day, when kids get together and compare their bounty, encourage them to share with their friends and siblings.

9. Have Older Kids Watch Over the Younger Kids

Watching over younger and more vulnerable kids is a great way to teach older kids about responsibility and compassion. This is not to say it has to happen in lieu of parental supervision, but we can't always be there to intervene, and when kids stand up for each other, it has a greater impact and teaches them to stand on their own two feet.

Halloween is a great night for both children and parents, especially if everyone is having fun and being safe and responsible.

From all of us at Parenting Squad, we wish you the best this Halloween.