Halloween is just over a week away and I’ve been slowly coming to terms with the fact that it’s going to look pretty different this year. In the midst of a global pandemic, many (if not all) the annual traditions have been cancelled. No Halloween parades, no trick-or-treating, no big parties. Like many parents, I’ve been scrambling to find a way to make the holiday special for my kids, who have had their costumes picked out since August. I haven’t come up with anything, so if you thought that’s where this post was going, I hate to disappoint. The fact is, I don’t think there is any at home scavenger hunt or trick-or-treating in the different rooms of our house that’s going to sugarcoat how much all of our lives have been upended by the events of 2020.
But one thing that hasn’t changed is our national panic about kids and candy. It emerges every year around this time. But what about the candy?! How are we going to manage the candy!?! I recently did a magazine interview about this ubiquitous October topic and, after the journalist ran through the American Academy of Pediatrics guidelines about added sugars for children (insert eye-roll here), she asked what my recommendation was. It’s simple. If kids want candy, give them candy. Give it regularly and give it like any other food. Candy tastes yummy, if you like candy, enjoy it with your kid. Try not to be weird about it. Don’t make it a big deal.
But aren’t you worried about your kids having too much sugar? Not really, I trust that my kids can self-regulate. If they eat too much candy and get a bellyache, it’s not the end of the world. But it rarely happens. When kids know that they have regular access to sweets, they feel less compelled to eat it all at once. They have what they want when they want it and then move on with their lives.
You know what I am worried about? My kids having a healthy relationship with food. I know how torturous it can feel to be thinking about food so much, to feel shame because of what you ate, and to hate your body. And that is something I never want my children to experience. In my opinion, a disordered relationship with food is far more harmful than all the Twix bars in the world.
There’s nothing like having kids to bring all of our food issues to the surface. As parents, one of the most important things we can do for our children is work through our own issues to give our kids a fighting chance at having a healthy relationship with food in this dysfunctional food culture. I don’t know about you, but I was raised in a home where Halloween candy was treated anything but normally. I am determined to break that cycle.
I hope that, in the midst of a global pandemic, weeks away from one of the most tense presidential elections in recent history, and with all of the upheaval of 2020 in full swing, we can all agree that managing our kids candy intake on Halloween is one thing we don’t have to worry about.