“This is Halloween, Halloween, Halloween”... has anyone else had that song stuck in their head lately like a bad dream? Halloween is a tricky time for parents. There’s the scary decor, costumes and candy from strangers, now combined with an extra concern for germs. Boo.
Whether you’re going trick or treating, to a small party or staying home, there likely will be candy and treats involved. So, here’s the game plan. Treat it like every other day, keeping in mind the division of responsibility in feeding. The (sDOR) by Ellyn Satter is well researched, effective and helps distinguish between parent/child roles in feeding. Yes, kids have responsibilities in this, too! In short, parents are responsible for providing healthy food choices, location and schedule while children decide what they will eat from what’s offered and how much. There’s definitely more to it than that, but we’re keeping it simple.
On a side note, we aren’t responsible to ensure our children eat. I know that sounds hard to accept. There’s only so much we can control, right? Teaching our children the skill of eating and a healthy relationship with food requires some finesse. I personally walked through it with my three year old and while it isn’t easy, the results are beautiful.
Here’s the plan for handling treats. We decide how much of a treat is offered and there are no seconds. So, on a typical day with dinner, I may offer a cookie for dessert. I may choose to wait to offer it after the meal or I may choose to give it with the meal. It shouldn't be enough to fill them up. I might say, “this is your dessert, you can choose to eat it now or later but there are no seconds.” The point of offering it with the meal is to take away the forbidden fruit or reward elements. It’s no big deal, just a cookie.
Okay, back to candy. The same guidelines apply - you chose how much they can have and when/where. They get to pick the pieces and whether or not they actually eat it. You tell them that you love them too much to argue with them about it (thank you Love and Logic).
What do you do with the rest? I like to put it away so it’s out of sight/out of mind. That doesn’t always work. Sometimes it’s found or requested. When that happens, I allow one or two pieces and we move on with our day. I’m not a huge fan of candy. I prefer homemade baked goods, so at some point I may dump some of it. It depends on the child, age and situation. Remember, it’s your job to choose what’s provided for your kids and binge eating candy for days/weeks doesn’t do anyone any favors. We also don’t want to make it so off limits that they are determined to get it. That backfires and doesn’t teach the skills they need to handle food choices on their own when you’re not around.
We all need a little margin and grace in our lives. That goes for our eating habits and parenting. Grace is one of the most important things you’ll teach your children. So season this plan with a generous amount of grace.
This isn’t to say there won’t be battles, but you’ll have a solid plan.
Cheering you on!
Registered Dietitian & Mom