The essential question about Halloween is, What to do with all that candy?
But here's a better question: Shouldn't parents just prevent the candy problem in the first place?
(Rest assured, I'm not going to suggest that your prevent your children from trick-or-treating.)
There are three easy ways parents could lighten the candy load.
With regard to trick-or-treating, you could:
- Limit the amount of time
- Limit the number of houses
- Limit the size of the bag
I gently proposed this on my Facebook page yesterday to one reader. She replied that Halloween is a social time and she didn't want to rain her her kids' parade.
I get it. And I think this reader's thoughts represent mainstream opinion. I really appreciate that she shared it. Moreover, this exchange got me thinking.
Here, in no particular order, is a look into my brain:
1) As a culture, we're psycho. Think Jekyll and Hyde. We glorify and then villify sweets and treats. Just look at how people ooh and ahh over cake and cookie pictures/recipes on the Internet. Then listen to the chatter about how sugar is the devil. Halloween is just one representation of this dynamic.
2) Another mixed message: Bigger is better; Don't eat too much. There's no question that in America we value BIG and Halloween is no exception. There is a lot of excitement promoted about getting as much candy as you can score. But then...after the fact we tell kids they can't eat it all.
3) Not setting collection limits subtly teaches gluttony. "Get as much as you can, regardless of whether or not you like that particular candy, and regardless of whether you'll actually be able to eat it all," is an unintended lesson of Halloween.
4) The Halloween Culture also teaches kids that it's more important to preserve fun than it is to prevent waste. This teaches a cavalier attitude towards food (even if we can all agree that candy isn't really food). Even sending excess candy to the troops sends a mixed message: you can't eat too much candy, but the troops can.
5) What would happen if we taught kids to collect enough? I think of this as "greed" vs "plenty." Collection limits might teach children to collect only the candy they really wanted, giving the stuff they don't love a pass. Now that's a life lesson we should all learn!
6) Why do we think kids can't have fun on Halloween if they're not trick-or-treating the entire time? Consumption limits don't automatically mean that kids have to go home when they hit their limit. The social part of Halloween remains. So why would we want to teach our children that the only way to have fun is to get more candy? Especially when more is the problem.
7) Why doesn't our national dialogue include a discussion on consumption limits as a viable way to control candy consumption? Put another way: why does preventing the problem feel so un-American, but controlling candy consumption feel so right?
8) We already set limits in ways that can "ruin" our kids' fun. Take bedtime, for instance. Why does setting limits on candy collection, then, feel so bad? (This is kind of the same question as #6, I know. But that's how my brain works!)
I've written a lot about what to do about Halloween candy after the fact.
Most recently I wrote about this in a post on Psychology Today: 5 Reasons Why You Shouldn't Dump Your Kids' Halloween Candy.
My essential point, which I think you can tell from the title, is that dumping your kids' candy teaches the wrong lessons. What's more, you can actually use Halloween to teach your kids healthy eating.
But now, I'm thinking in a more complex way.
Candy is the Purpose. Candy is the Problem.
And it's this dynamic that makes Halloween a tinderbox for teaching eating habits. Halloween is a one-day event, but the lessons our kids learn are enduring.
~Changing the conversation from nutrition to habits.~