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Should your child manage their own Halloween candy stash?

Oh, Halloween. Of all the holidays we celebrate, this one is such a mixed bag. It is a day to honor the dead, after all. It can’t be all sparkles and unicorns (unless you’re 5, in which case it just might be).

pirate halloween

Kids love Halloween and parents, well, parents have more concerns. There’s the risk of going out at night, the spooky decorations, the dangers of razor blades in the candy (really?) and untrustworthy folks handing out treats to your children. There’s the requirement of a costume, and the requirement to hand out something at your own door that you feel good about giving out to someone else’s children.

And then at the end of the day, there is a giant pile of candy to deal with.

I know many parents choose to invite the Halloween fairy to come to their house, who will leave an awesome toy, book or some art supplies in place of the bulk of a child’s candy. It really does sound good, but each year I balk at the idea. There’s already a lot fairy magicking going on throughout the year, especially in this stage of losing teeth, and a little bit of magic is fun, but too much doesn’t feel right. The real purpose of the Halloween fairy is to take away the candy and replace it with something parent-approved, which seems different than celebrating the losing of teeth or the passing of the winter solstice with a little elfin magic.

In years past I would keep the candy stash in the cupboard, doling out treats two at a time after meals or for an afternoon treat. This felt safer, but the amount of pestering was getting to be ridiculous. With the Halloween fairy out of favour and locking the candy away too troublesome, the only option left was to leave the children to manage their own candy. There are now more modern alternatives to stashing/rationing candy for your kids, and you can click here before you choose for a full review of these options.

halloween candy

Unlimited Candy Stash Means Sugar Fueled Mayhem, Right?

Surprisingly, everyone has been very calm regardless of the amount of candy that has been consumed. Candy after candy went down the hatch after lunch today and overall it was clear sailing.

I have to admit, I was kind of surprised at first. But after more reflection, I realized that most of our tantrums come from not being treated as an important, autonomous person who can make their own decisions. Sometimes kids really can’t make their own decisions, but the more we allow them to do it, the more they get to practice that essential life skill.

There are still many good reasons for limiting sugar consumption (especially when it comes to dental health) and I’m not about to regularly buy candy so my kids can self-regulate their candy intake all year long. But I think a little taste of candy autonomy has been a good thing. The drive to consistently binge on sugar comes from the same place all addictions come from, and if you’re careful to make sure that everyone’s getting their emotional needs met, kids (and adults) are less likely to try to fill those unmet needs with sugar or anything else.

What do you do with all the Halloween candy?

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Cynthia November 3, 2012, 8:47 pm

    Hmm. It’s interesting, the idea that sugar addiction, like other addictions, come from unmet emotional needs. I’ll have to read that Dr. Gabor Maté book to get a better idea of what he’s saying, since I’ve always thought of sugar addiction as being physiological and therefore more difficult to self-regulate.

    • michelle November 5, 2012, 9:42 pm

      Hungry Ghosts is well worth the read, but in a nutshell, all addictions come from brain systems that have been ‘primed’ for addiction by certain needs not having been met during a sensitive period. Certain substances or behaviours are more habit-forming than others due to their physiological effects (esp. drugs, sex, alcohol, sugar), but not everyone who indulges in those substances or behaviours will become addicted. For people who didn’t get their emotional needs met during childhood, even necessary and worthwhile things can become addictive (like food, shopping, work and personal projects). Mate describes addiction as a continuum, with his downtown eastside drug addicts at the far end, totally enlightened and intentional people at the other end, and most people at varying places in the middle.

  • Mandy @ Living Peacefully with Children November 4, 2012, 6:16 pm

    Thank you for posting this. I quite agree. It seems odd to me to take my children trick-or-treating and then to dictate what they do with the candy they have collected. Children are quite capable of regulating themselves, if only we don’t get in their way.

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