In case parenting during Halloween is new to you and your family, let me fill you in on one of the biggest trends in candy management. Gone are the days when kids roam free to trick-or-treat, enjoying the pure bliss of securing a mountain of candy. And if you thought your kid’s friends would be over for an hour of post trick-or-treating candy trading, nope. Instead, a “nice” witch (the Switch Witch) sneaks in, steals your child’s candy and replaces it with a toy or game.
Why, you ask, in the name of Willy Wonka, would anyone allow this travesty to occur? Well, to name a few possible reasons: There’s a junk food epidemic in this country, diabetes and obesity are rampant, and sugar consumption has reached an all-time high. So why not say no to sugar on Halloween?
I am Sarina, and I let my kids eat their Halloween candy. I let them eat candy other days of the year, too. I decided to go public with this after courageous mom, Stephanie Olson, fessed up in this post on letting her kids do the same.
The Switch Witch does not come to our house. Aside from the nightmares I, myself, might have about such a witch, I think we can do better. We can find better ways to convey the messages we want to share with our kids around healthy eating, and better ways to deal with a pumpkin full of candy at home.
Here are five ideas to help you banish the Switch Witch and land the Halloween helicopter safely:
1) Create a family agreement around the role of treats in your home.
If you have a plan in place, like one piece of candy a day, or one bigger treat a week, your kids are learning how to moderate their own intake all year. You get to decide whether that agreement is kept on Halloween or whether it's a special occasion where they can have more than usual.
2) Teach and model healthy eating skills all year long so you can feel comfortable relaxing on Halloween.
One day is not the problem, it’s what we do all year. Do you feel comfortable about your own ability to regulate treat eating? Are you modeling your own healthy eating by having breakfast every morning? Starting here will get you further toward helping your kid embrace a healthy lifestyle, certainly further than just taking your child’s candy one day of the year.
3) Let them go wild on Halloween.
Some families let their kids eat all the candy they want on Halloween to avoid turning candy into the forbidden fruit. We have done this with our own kids and find that they are done after five or so pieces. Without the power struggle, they actually listen to their bodies and know when they have had enough.
4) Don’t let them trick or treat.
I am not being sarcastic here. If they can’t eat the candy, why on earth would they want to spend hours collecting it? If no candy is the rule, than why not have a party instead? Invite friends and have a Halloween celebration free of collecting the candy in the first place.
5) Relax and celebrate all the great skills that come with Halloween candy.
Skills? Halloween? Sure. Watch the math moments that occur as kids count and sort their loot. Witness the sibling negotiation skills that come with determining how many jellybeans equal one mini chocolate bar.
In our house, the candy sits in a bag the kids can reach, providing yearlong practice in self-discipline and asset management. They know what a small treat looks like, and because we haven’t created a power dynamic around it, they are happy with a bite-size piece. Most of last year’s candy is still in their bags and they are willingly purging it to make room for this year’s collection.
Whether you are gearing up for a candy crackdown, or ditching that witch in favor of a little fun, the most important thing is that you have created an agreement with your child ahead of time. Getting everyone on the same page allows Halloween to be a lot more fun for all.
Editor's note: This article was originally published on October 28, 2015. It has been updated.