Let's Prepare for Halloween

Oct 21, 2022

It’s a spooky time of year. It’s time to finalize your costumes and freak out about what you’re going to do with all the Halloween candy.


Oh, yeah… I know what you’re talking about.


Do you find yourself going to lengths to avoid, manage and avoid Halloween candy?


A recent question on a pediatric focum:

Who has strategies that encourage a reasonable amount of candy, but still allows kids to celebrate and enjoy the holiday?


There’s a whole lot of ideas here - and please note that there is nothing right or wrong about any of them. They are ideas that parents and physicians offered:


  • You have them keep what you deem is reasonable and trade the rest in for non-food prizes
  • We have a local dentist that pays kids per pound of returned candy
  • I encourage families to let their children keep a portion of their candy (parental discretion) as instantaneous gratification (for the next few days with a quota per day) and then keep the rest hidden as a token economy system, in which they can "earn" more candy
  • We have the sugar fairy.  The kids leave as much candy as they want and the fairy comes at night to exchange the candy for a gift (toy or book).  The more candy they leave the bigger the gift she will leave. 
  • Older Teens-have friends over and watch scary movies or go see a movie instead of trick or treating!
  • Younger teens and “tweens”- SWITCH WITCH!! Pick out x number of favorite candies and leave rest of bag for the “witch” and she will leave a spooky surprise. Similar to tooth fairy, Easter Bunny, etc.
  • ((Wendy here: BTW: there was an amazing tip sheet that was shared that I will hyperlink to all sorts of fun Halloween activities at home and school))

There are a few things to remind ourselves:

Halloween is not about the candy, unless we make it.


What is Halloween about?


  • Candy?
  • Costumes?
  • Creativity?
  • Themed outfits?
  • Imagination?
  • Scary Movies?
  • Exposure to frightening things?
  • Thriller… c’mon, I love when the song has a resurgence every year.
  • Harvest celebrations
  • Pumpkin….. Everything
  • Getting a workout when decorating with pumpkins and hay bales
  • Apple spice (my personal favorite)
  • Scratching my head about why candy corn is a thing
  • Talking with neighbors about how to celebrate in the driveway
  • Games
  • Last-minute costume changes and scrambles

There’s a lot more to Halloween than candy, but I betcha thought about candy right away.


Because we all do: parents, kids.


We have created a collective fear of candy and sugar and then there is a night (or a week) of the year that seems to be built around candy and sugar in our minds.


But only if we let it be that way.


The question that was posed even has a pre-supposition about the inherent work that parents are doing to try to control the candy.


We need a few things here:

  1. Creativity
  2. Trust
  3. Let that shit go


What else do you want Halloween to be about? I’m not talking about trying to convince your kids. I’m asking you: what do you want Halloween to be about for you? Do you want to focus on controlling the candy (good luck), or do you want to focus on the inconceivable excitement expressed by an 8 year old boy who is sprinting from house to house with a pillowcase, while dressed as Luke Skywalker?


Do you want to focus on the teens, who just want to continue dressing up and being a kid for one more Halloween?


Get creative with it. Instead of focusing on less candy (which never works when you try to focus on creating LESS of something) – consider, what do you want MORE of?


Our family wanted more fun. Ok, I wanted more fun. The family benefits. I started supporting any ridiculous costume combination - including the Star Wars family that I shared a photo of last week to those on my email list, and Herbert the Pervert from Family Guy, made out of paper mache for a child who was too old to go trick-or-treating “legally” anymore, but that didn’t stop any of us from having a great time.


And for me, yes, I still had an issue with buying tons of candy and then handing it out. It wasn’t that it was wrong, or bad, it just wasn’t FUN for me… because of all the other concerns about what I wanted Halloween to be for me.


So I started the Harvest Apple fun on Halloween. It was originally going to be a bobbing-for-apples thing, but… COVID. I dress up as the Evil Queen from Snow White, put the apples in a cauldron and beckon families to my doorstep in a be-creepy-but-then-start-cracking-up kinda of way.


My family thought that I would get the apples tossed back at me, or in my yard (like the egging I received on the one year that I actually posted political signs). Instead, I was met with surprise and gratitude.


“Thanks, we actually haven’t had dinner yet.”

“Ooh, an apple, can I have it now, Dad?”


This isn’t right-or-wrong.

It’s about looking for what works for YOU.


The kids love candy. Yeah – and there is nothing wrong with them having candy. 

The whole concept of them eating it in moderation is kinda silly, though.


After all, candy is often restricted, and then on Halloween, it.is.EVERYWHERE. Go figure that the kids want to eat it all. That night.


And my son has done just that. And the next day, he felt the consequences. And he hasn’t done it again.


He’s learning how to trust his body. And what moderation looks like for him.


That’s the issue with “moderation” - it looks different for everyone. You can make a plan for them to eat in moderation and then get pissed when their idea of moderation is different.


That’s ok.


Let’s not pathologize that kids want to eat their candy on Halloween. Or even overeating. We have been living with a baseline normalization of food restriction.


And when food is restricted, and then available - overeating happens. 


How do you not restrict? Again, what do you actually want? A competent eater (that’s the intuitive-eating phrase for a person who listens to their body, eats when hungry, 


Ellyn Satter says, “competent eaters are confident, comfortable, and flexible with eating, and are matter-of-fact and reliable about getting enough to eat of enjoyable and nourishing food.” 


Learning how to trust our bodies means that we get to UNLEARN all of the reliance upon external cues to clear our plates, eat our veggies first, and only have one piece of candy when we are really hungry for 2.


Lastly, let that shit go.


You have your version of the theme song from Frozen, I have mine.


I was spun real tight around the anti-sugar axle for a really long time. It was a fight. And it wasn’t helping me or my kids. It was creating fights: not the sugar, but my attempts to control it all. I brought alternative Halloween treat ideas into the home because of my desire to be an example of having fun for the holiday, without sugar. And honestly, buying jelly bracelets and handing out bling didn’t feel any different than chocolate-peanut butter yumminess.


What changed is when I let go of the idea that I was trying to make a healthier switch. When I let go of trying to be the example for my kids, my community. I just let it all go - and started having fun.


Because Halloween is fun. How can you bring the fun back for your holiday? And how will that impact your family’s holiday?


Enjoy the bounty, my friend.


Oh, and a little Herbert the Pervert (that's a lotta paper mache!):

Check out the Family in Focus with Wendy Schofer, MD Podcast!

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