As kids, we plan and dream about Halloween candy. As adults, and parents, it’s our job to plan in a different way. If your children have attended parties, or been out to trick-or-treat, you will have candy and its aftermath in your home. Once Jack-o-Lanterns are extinguished and costumes have been put aside, your Halloween responsibilities are not yet completed. More than likely, you now have a huge amount of candy to contend with.
If you have fond memories of stashing a pillowcase full of goodies under the bed and making regular withdrawals, remember two things. First, we tend to remember events from our childhood with somewhat of a “rosy glow”; and second, you’re the parent now, so you really do need to think like an adult. In the aftermath of trick or treating do you just let the kids decide how to handle it, or will you step in with some parental authority? If you do decide to step in, exactly what will you do? Much of the answer will depend on the amount of the candy hauled home on Halloween and the ages of your children.
If your children only went to trick-or-treat at a few neighbor’s homes, or just brought a small goodie bag home from a party, you don’t really have an issue. The candy will be gone before you know it. If the amount of candy is likely to be more than will fit in a quart size zipper baggie, having a plan ahead of time will be very helpful.
Of course the first thing you will want to do is visually inspect all of your child’s candy. Toss anything that is unwrapped or that has damaged packaging. Your child’s health and safety is your first priority. Unfortunately, this is also when you must weed out the homemade goodies. Unless you are 100 percent sure of the safety of the source, throw them away. Once you’ve addressed the safety issue, go on to other practical considerations. Separate out the candy that you know no one in your home is going to eat anyway. Give this to friends, throw it away or include it in your next box of groceries to the food bank. You can include your kids on this step, and while they are at it, have them select several healthy foods from your home pantry for donation as well.
OK, you’ve reduced the original haul by quite a bit now, but you are still looking at a LOT of candy. Have you seen that little triangle at the top of the federal food pyramid? It indicates that you, and your children, should only be eating sweets and fats as a very small portion of your total diet. Even if you increase the amount in honor of the holiday, you should still exert some kind of control over how much candy your children are eating, and when they are eating it.
Now if your kids are small, you may just want to make a family candy stash and dole it out at your discretion. Dump everything into a large bowl and place it in a hard to reach location. Once or twice a day, make an event of bringing the candy bowl out for kids to choose a treat. Use your best judgment to determine the size and/or quantity you allow.
Older kids will probably want more control. You should decide ahead of time if they will have free rein or if you will limit their daily intake. Even if you do not plan to exercise parental controls, keep in mind that you need to be extra vigilant of your child’s eating, sleeping and hygiene habits during the days they have unlimited access to Halloween treats. If daily splurges are impacting their health or school work, you will have to step in and set some limits.
Whether you intend to limit from the beginning, or reach that decision some days after Halloween, have a plan in mind. Do they get so many pieces per day? All they want on weekends? One dad gave his children a large soup spoon and said they could eat whatever they could scoop out in a single scoop. Will you expect them to share with parents or siblings? Will you encourage or forbid trading candy, or stay out of that question and let the kids decide themselves? The exact details of your plan will depend on your personal values and the needs of your family. The important thing is that your children know what you will expect. You don’t want to get into a needless battle on November 4 because you suddenly announce that your kid is eating too much candy. Once you make a plan and describe it to your kids, stick to it. You can tell them that part of the plan is contingent upon good behavior and keeping up of school work. It is okay to have different plans for older and younger children as long as you explain the reasons for your choices. If a plan doesn’t work out, change it for next year.
The candy issue will probably only last a week or so. Just mentally prepare yourself for the onslaught of sugar, have a plan for handling the candy and wait it out. Some parents like to include in the preparation and planning session an “adults only” stash of chocolate. You do what works for you and your family.