As Halloween approaches, are you wondering how to keep your children safe amongst the bite sized candy frenzy?
Worried that they will feel excluded from the fright and fun?
Do you dread October 31steach year or at best think, “Good Grief”?
While Halloween can be challenging for families with food allergies, celiac disease and other medical conditions, it doesn’t have to be dark and gloomy.
Here are 5 simple tips to lighten the holiday and help your child feel better equipped AND more in control of navigating the cauldrons, cobwebs and candy scattered throughout their celebrations.
1. Involve them in the preparation/decisions
Ask your child if and how they would like to celebrate Halloween. You may be surprised. Your child may not be as excited about Halloween as you think and may not want to collect candy from the neighbors. I remember several years when my kids decided against trick-or-treating, especially when they were older.
If they don’t want to collect candy, ask what they would like to do instead. They might just want to parade through the neighborhood in their scary, funny or cute costume with friends. There are many alternatives to trick-or-treating such as having a Halloween party, game night or watching a movie like It’s the Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown.
For other fun ideas, check out Why Do You Have a Blue Pumpkin? (Well It’s Actually Teal)” and Halloween and Food Allergies: We’ve got you covered.
If your kids decide to trick-or-treat, consider having them separate their candy into “safe” and “unsafe” piles and watch how they become more accurate over the years in determining what candy they can and can’t have. This is a great skill for them to learn under your supervision. Allow them to decide the fate of the “unsafe” candy (parents’ work places, dentist, donation, trade)!
The days leading up to Halloween can be a great time to roleplay with your children. For example, you may pretend that you are the parent handing out candy and they can pretend that they are trick-or-treating at your door. Give them a fake piece of unsafe candy. Watch how they respond. Discuss different answers they can give for various scenarios such as having a choice of candy to take or being given unsafe candy in their hand or trick-or-treat bag.
Talk about their response. Maybe they’d like to say “No thank you” or possibly explain that they have food allergies and can’t have the candy.
Alternatively, they may arrive at a home with a Teal Pumpkin and tell the family how excited they are to see that they have non-food treats!
Discussing scenarios and responses PRIOR to Halloween night may make them feel more prepared.
3. Encourage them to educate others
Halloween might be a good time for your children to explain food allergies to others. They may want to mention their food allergies to the neighbors as they trick-or-treat or remind friends why they can’t eat candy while trick-or-treating.
If your children are in elementary school, ask if they want to discuss food allergies with their classmates including some of the challenges they face during the holiday and ways they manage these challenges.
Your child may choose to celebrate with the Teal Pumpkin which creates a great opportunity for them to discuss food allergies with others and raise awareness.
4. Help them to be proactive, not reactive
Prior to Halloween, help your child figure out how best to stay safe.
Consider brainstorming with your child a list of rules to follow while trick-or-treating or at parties. Suggestions for trick-or-treating may include eating dinner before heading out, handling of unsafe candy with gloves or avoidance, no eating while away from home and taking 2 auto-injectors .
If your child plans to attend a Halloween bash, ask them how they would like to deal with the food IN ADVANCE of the party. Would they like to bring their own food or determine if there will be safe food at the party? Do they want to collect candy at the party or would they rather take candy that they know is safe?
Encourage them to plan days before the actual celebration how they would like to handle Halloween.
5. Help them assess the consequences
In addition to brainstorming the rules in tip #4, explain the importance of each rule and how it will help to keep them safe and able to have fun with family and friends.
Depending on the age and maturity of your child, you may want to help them assess the consequences of not following the list of rules. For example, explain to them that if they forget to take their auto-injectors, they will need to return home immediately and might miss some of the trick-or-treating fun.
With older children, you may want to discuss potential pitfalls or situations that might occur if the rules are broken while reassuring them that you will both take precautions to make sure that they stay safe and enjoy the holiday.
As you help them to think through the consequences of their actions, it will become more natural for them to do so and help to keep them safe when you are not around.
Whether your children go trick-or-treating with the ghosts and goblins, snuggle up and watch a movie or wait for the Great Pumpkin, I hope these 5 tips will help them to feel more empowered and in control of their Halloween experiences to come!
Do your children trick-or-treat? What Halloween rituals do you have in your family? Please share in the comments below.
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