On the day of candy

Originally published on The Consciously Parenting Blog November 3, 2014


I didn’t manage to publish this on Halloween as I got wrapped up in work and then costumes. So even though it is late, I figure better late than never. It will be up for next year! Let me know your thoughts about this! What did you do? Did you turn off your lights and hide? Did you send the kids out and have the Sugar Fairy come later that night to trade the candy away? I’d love to hear what you do in your family, so post in the comments!

Josh-HalloweenIt’s October 31 and here in the US, that means Halloween for many families. I have a love-hate relationship with this particular holiday. I love the costumes, and watching the kiddos dress up and come to the door. But I don’t like all the candy and what that does to our family- the battles, the moodiness from the sugar, the changes in routine, the excitement of the whole thing that overwhelms the little ones. Perhaps you’ve been there, too?

My Halloweens past are filled with memories of cute costumes- the year my oldest (now 15) was a puppy (he was about 10 months old). He wouldn’t stand up in the costume and I’m pretty sure he was overheated in that plush costume even in the air conditioning that year on that 95 degree day in South Florida. And one year that bordered on ridiculous with the tantrums over wanting candy when my youngest son had horrible dental issues (on a sugar-free diet), followed by the complete disintegration of both of us after he ate some. That was the year I was on red and swore that I wouldn’t be doing Halloween ever again. EVER.

So if we do choose to participate in the Halloween thing, how can we move gracefully through this day keeping our relationship intact?

Figure out what your own limits are for this holiday. Are you going to all dress up? Will you go to a movie instead? Are you going to Publix while it is still light outside and calling it an evening? Trunk-or-treating? Having a small party for like-minded families where the kids can dress up, but not actually trick-or-treat? What are YOU ok with doing, even if that’s nothing? Make a conscious decision to move into (or out of) this holiday with intention, starting with you.

Explore your options. Some families let their children go trick-or-treating, let them choose a few pieces of candy, then leave the candy for the “sugar fairy” who exchanges the candy for a toy. Some families donate the candy to the troops after it has been enjoyed for a day or two. One or two years, we mailed the extra candy to the boys’ uncle as part of an on-going family joke. Some families opt to go with the special treats in exchange for what has been collected, especially those with allergies or other dietary restrictions. It can be a hard holiday when you add any sort of special need. Another family doesn’t celebrate the holiday at all and some of her children (who are older) buy 50% off candy tomorrow. The younger ones opt out entirely.

Look at what your child really needs. Some children are completely overwhelmed by this holiday. Respect that. I remember the first year my youngest went trick-or-treating when he was really aware of what was happening. He was 3 or 4. We went out early while it was still light outside, but the first person he saw in a mask flipped him out. We ended up going to about 4 houses and then I took him back home. Done. And that was just fine with me. Your children will tell you what they need. There is no need to push them beyond their comfort zone, especially on Halloween.

Talk about what is going to happen before you leave the house. I can’t emphasize this enough, especially with little ones. For sensitive children, trick-or-treating can be a difficult experience, even though it is fun for you. Talk about where you’re going to go and what kinds of things they might see. Let your child know that he can let you know when he’s finished even if they haven’t made it around the whole block yet.

A word about thank you. I was teaching Connection Parenting by Pam Leo several years ago when a dad described how he handled each door when someone gave his child candy. Instead of telling his son to, “Say thank you,” this dad simply thanked the person handing out candy himself in a sincere way. There was another dad and son pair walking with them at each door. The other parent was prompting his son at each stop to say thank you. When they got to the end of the block, the prompting parent’s son was still being prompted. The other child, whose father had been modeling what he wanted him to do, had taken over half way down the street and was saying a heart-felt thank you to each person and the father wasn’t saying anything. Try it and let me know what happens in your family!

Tell me about your experiences!

How did you handle Halloween this year? What worked for you, and what didn’t work? What would you like to try next year? Tell me in the comments.

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