In case parenting during Halloween is new to you and your family, let me fill you in on the latest trend in candy management. Gone are the days when kids roam free, feeling safe in their neighborhoods and enjoying the pure bliss of securing a mountain of candy. If you thought your kid’s friends would be over for an hour of post trick or treating candy trading, you might be in for a surprise. Instead, a “nice” witch sneaks in, steals your child’s candy, and replaces it with a toy or game.
Why, you ask, in the name of Willy Wonka, would anyone allow this travesty to occur? Well, there’s a junk food epidemic in this country; diabetes and obesity are rampant, and sugar consumption has reached an all-time high. And, the perfect day of the year to say no to sugar, well, that would be Halloween.
I am Sarina, and I let my kids eat their Halloween candy. I let them eat candy other days of the year, too. I decided to go public with this after courageous mom, Stephanie Olson, fessed up in her recent post on letting her kids do the same.
The switch witch does not come to our house. Aside from the nightmares I, myself, might have about such a witch, I think we can do better. We can find better ways to convey the messages we want to share with our kids around healthy eating, and better ways to deal with a pumpkin full of candy at home.
Here are five ideas to help you banish the switch witch and land the Halloween helicopter:
1) Create a family agreement around the role of treats in your home. If you have a plan in place, like one piece of candy a day, or one bigger treat a week, your kids are learning how to moderate their own intake all year. You get to decide whether that agreement is kept on Halloween or whether it's a special occasion where they can have more than usual.
2) Teach and model healthy eating skills all year long so you can feel comfortable relaxing a little on Halloween. One day is not the problem, it’s what we do all year. Do you feel comfortable about your own ability to regulate treat eating? Are you modeling your own healthy eating by having breakfast every morning? Starting here will get you further toward helping your kid embrace a healthy lifestyle, certainly further than just taking your child’s candy one day of the year.
3) Let them go wild on Halloween. Some families let their kids eat all the candy they want on Halloween to avoid turning candy in to the forbidden fruit. We have done this with our own kids and find that they are done after five or so pieces. Without the power struggle, they actually listen to their bodies and know when they have had enough.
4) Don’t let them trick or treat. I am not being sarcastic here. If they can’t eat the candy, why on earth would they want to spend hours collecting it? Imagine visiting ten of your favorite stores and getting a free gift at each one. When you return home, your partner says, “Wow, wasn’t that fun? Tonight after you go to sleep the switch witch will take your new iPhone and fancy new boots and replace them with something much more practical, like a note pad and paper.” Feeling good about that? If no candy is the rule, than why not have a party instead? Invite friends and have a Halloween celebration free of collecting the candy in the first place.
5) Relax and celebrate all the great skills that come with Halloween candy. Put your worries at ease and watch the math moments that occur as kids count and sort their loot. Witness the sibling negotiation skills that come with determining how many jellybeans equal one mini chocolate bar. In our house, the candy sits in a bag the kids can reach, providing yearlong practice in self-discipline and asset management. They know what a small treat looks like, and because we haven’t created a power dynamic around it, they are happy with a bite size piece. Most of last year’s candy is still in their bags and they are willingly purging it to make room for this year’s collection.
Whether you are gearing up for a candy crackdown, or ditching that witch in favor of a little fun, the most important thing is that you have created an agreement with your child ahead of time. Getting everyone on the same page allows Halloween to be a lot more fun for all.