The good news: Having a kid on Halloween means easy access to the spoils of trick-or-treating and the power to dress them up in the most adorable pumpkin costume you can possibly find (for a year or two, at least). The bad news: You’re now a person who frets about razors lurking within king-size Snickers bars, and are caught in the crossfires of candy-fueled chaos.
It’s a lot. But parenting experts have stepped up to share their tips for navigating parents’ biggest Halloween fears, from kiddies on a sugar rush to safety concerns. Read on for answers to your pressing questions.
How much candy is too much?
“Candy is happening one way or another on Halloween,” Diana Rice, a dietitian and intuitive eating counselor who runs Tiny Seed Nutrition and the popular Instagram account Anti-Diet Kids, told Yahoo Life last year.
Unless there is a clear concern (such as an allergy or choking hazard outlined below), parents should avoid focusing on restricting the amount of candy their kids eat or framing their sweets as “good” or “bad.” Speaking to Yahoo Life in 2022, Kristin Gallant, one half of the parenting coach duo Big Little Feelings, explained why “making it special — whether it’s describing it as a divine, rare treat or talking about it negatively, as the ‘bad-for-you’ stuff — instantly captures your toddler’s attention and makes the candy feel like something they NEED to have.”
Rice’s suggestion: “Give opportunities to regulate around it,” she shared. “Those poor kids never get a chance to regulate themselves around what what it feels like to have candy in their body.” Avoid body shaming talk or any messaging that reinforces diet culture, and instead encourage kids to judge for themselves how what they’re eating makes them feel. Similar to an adult contemplating the next day’s hangover when drinking alcohol, kids will soon learn that their tummy starts to hurt or they feel full after three Twizzlers.
When it comes to Halloween night, parents can also try:
- Serving a healthy meal before heading out to trick-or-treat
- Establishing family rules around candy consumption: Maybe everyone has 10 minutes to enjoy their candy feast before bedtime, or kids can pick their top three favorite treats and save the rest for snacks or dessert in the week
- Relaxing — experts say that one night of feasting on candy won’t do lasting harm, and shows that parents can be flexible around food
What candy should I watch out for?
While parents shouldn’t, for the most part, police their kids’ candy intake, an exception should be made for children who have allergies or a health condition like diabetes that requires monitoring their diet. What’s more, many candies (anything sticky, chewy, gummy, hard or shaped so that it would be easily lodged in a tiny throat, like a gumball or Jolly Rancher) are a choking hazard for babies and young kids 4 and under. Parents should scan any candy collected, and supervise kids while they eat.
Should I be worried about contaminated candy?
For decades parents have been warned about their children’s candy being laced with poison or concealing sharp pins and razor blades. But Joel Best, a professor of sociology and criminal justice at the University of Delaware and an expert on so-called “Halloween sadism,” maintains that the annual alerts about unsafe candy amount to a lot of fear-mongering with little evidence to back it up. In 2021, Best told Yahoo Life that the vast majority of contamination reports were hoaxes, and that, while many THC edibles are difficult to distinguish from candy and should be kept away from kids, it’s unlikely that nefarious neighbors are dispensing pricey drugs to trick-or treaters.
That said, parents should be scanning their kids’ candy anyway, so it can’t hurt to take a closer look before little ones chow down.
Halloween is on a school night. Can my kid stay up?
Think werewolves are scary? Try going toe to toe with a Skittles-fueled 6-year-old whose bedtime routine has gone haywire. Parents who rely on a strict sleep schedule may consider Halloween activities, like a school trunk or treat, that take place earlier in the afternoon in lieu of after-dark trick-or-treating. If that’s not an option, remember that it’s “absolutely OK” if your regular routine gets disrupted by holiday fun, Big Little Feelings co-founder Deena Margolin told Yahoo Life last year. If possible, she advises parents to gradually push bedtime back in the week leading up to Halloween so that kids can better adjust. But again, there’s no need to feel guilty about the odd late night.
How else can I keep my kid safe?
Studies show that Halloween is the deadliest night of the year for child pedestrians, who are more likely to be struck by a car while out on Oct. 31 compared to other days. As the evenings grow darker, families can practice safety measures such as:
- Making sure adults accompany young kids
- Walking on sidewalks
- Being mindful and watching for cars that might be backing out as they pass driveways in residential areas
- Cross at designated corners and crosswalks
- Observe street lights and signs
- Avoid walking in the street
- Consider Halloween gatherings in which neighborhoods block off street traffic for trick-or-treating
- Drive carefully, with headlights on, and watch for pedestrians if on the road
- Use flashlights, glow sticks or reflective stickers, especially if costumes are dark and can’t easily be seen from the road
Is my kid’s costume safe?
Parents should also check that their child’s costume doesn’t pose any sort of safety risk. Could that long cloak, mermaid tail or pair of princess heels cause a child to trip and potentially fall into the street? Is the costume made of dark material that’s difficult for drivers to make out? Safety experts also advise parents to opt for nontoxic face paint over masks, which can make it hard to see, hear and breathe. Check props to ensure they’re not sharp or dangerous in any way.
How can I help my kid be less frightened?
Even adults can feel triggered by scary Halloween decorations, so it stands to reason that a lot of kids are going to have a hard time walking past the 12-foot skeletons and supersized spider webs in your neighbors’ lawns. Talk them through what they might see — age-appropriate books and cartoons about Halloween might help — to help build confidence. “You can practice wearing their costumes, and you can practice trick-or-treating together,” Gallant suggested.
If a child does get scared during trick-or-treating, acknowledge and validate those feelings. According to Margolin, it’s important to let them know that it’s OK to feel scared, while assuring them that they are safe with you. If things don’t improve, going home early is also OK.
SOURCE: Yahoo Life