Halloween is an exciting time for kids, but can also be a tough one for kids with food allergies and sensitivities, and a very stressful time for their parents. So, how does a gluten-free mom of a daughter with severe food allergies handle Halloween? Let me share some of my strategies for coping with this scary season!
First, let me say that I’m not an advocate of candy. In fact, I think it’s terrible for our health and I wish these candy companies didn’t exist to manufacture crap that is contributing to the obesity and illness in our society. Plus, my kids turn into crazy wild animals at the sight of candy and nothing else but that morsel of sugar seems to matter to them.
So, now that I got that out (whew!), I will say that I am also realistic and want my kids to have the same fun as all the other kids. We go to Halloween parties, we decorate our house and get dressed up, and my kids get to trick-or-treat for candy. We just need to do it a little differently and carefully.
Know what is safe ahead of time
No matter what the Halloween activities, you will find them much more enjoyable if you know what candies and foods are safe for your child ahead of time instead of in the middle of the craziness. Use my Halloween Safe Candy Lists to guide you!
Also, listen to the radio show I did as a guest of Jules Dowler Shepard. We talk about the candy lists, food labeling and what those allergen statements really mean.
I always sign up to bring a treat to the class party. Always. Do I always want to? No, I don’t. But, I know how important it is to my kids to get to have a treat at the party. Don’t have time? It doesn’t have to be fancy! Don’t put pressure on yourself to be Martha Stewart. Your kids will be happy with whatever you come up with. If you can’t think of anything, there’s always rice crispy treats (make in the shape of a ghost if you want to go crazy!) Last year I made chocolate chip cookies and then decorated them like pumpkins. My point is, I didn’t have time to roll out and cut sugar cookies, so I went with chocolate chip instead. The kids loved them!
I always assume that there will be candy at school, so I am being proactive this year and will give my Allergen-Free Candy Quick List out to my kids’ teachers and other central school resources. For example, my school has a Facebook page now, so I posted the link to the list on there. Usually teachers and parents are grateful to know what to buy so that every kid can partake.
Trick or Treating
You might be able to control the candy that your child receives at school, but when trick-or-treating your child is going to have every kind of candy being dropped in their bag. What to do? The first couple years it was difficult to explain to my child that she couldn’t eat certain candies until I checked them at home. She was also young enough that I could steal the unsafe candies out of her bag without her knowing. There’s no way I could do that now! But, she’s also old enough that she understands we need to check the questionable pieces of candy and that if she can’t have it, she gets to choose a different candy from my stash of safe candy (usually it’s the same candy we are giving out at the door). The trade policy works really well for us, because she feels it is fair, rather than just having to throw away candies she can’t have.
I think most parents agree that they don’t really want their kids eating all the candy they get, so some clever parents have devised creative ways of getting their kids to give up the candy. One idea I have heard is the Candy Witch or the Switch Witch. The kid leaves the candy on Halloween night (or subsequent nights) and the Witch leaves a present or money in exchange. My kids think gift cards are the coolest thing ever, so maybe the Witch will leave one of those!
We also have a local dentist who pays kids for candy and then sends the candy to our troops overseas. Pretty nice idea.
Don’t forget to remind yourself and your kids that Halloween is not just about taking candy from strangers. It’s also about gory cut-off body parts, creepy spiders and weirdos walking around town with masks on. hee hee hee!