Halloween – this holiday is synonymous with costumes, haunted houses, scary movies and – sweets. While no parent wants their children to overindulge in the sugary stuff, Halloween can be especially concerning for parents whose children have diabetes. While your child won’t be able to eat as much sugar as other children no doubt will, there is no reason that they should be left out or excluded – your child should be able to participate too. So here are some tricks for coping with the treats this Halloween:
1. Give them a headsup!
No matter what age your child is, it’s best to discuss your plans for Halloween in advance, so that they know what to expect! There is no reason for them not to be able to go out and collect sweets. But let them know that when all the collecting is done, that the sweets will be rationed and that they can choose a few favourites that they can have during the coming weeks, to be eaten with a meal, or to treat ‘lows’. Then you can discuss what will happen with the rest of the sweets. When your child knows before the trick-or-treating how the rest of the night will go, it will help to avoid some of fall-out afterwards and so that rationing will not be a shock. This will also mean that they can still be involved in both the collecting and the trading of sweets with their siblings and friends.
2. What to do with the sweet stuff
A great idea for the leftover sweets is donation – whether it is to a charity, a local hospital or nursing home, or even a sick friend or relative. Other options are; bringing into school or work to share, or exchanging with a parent for a small coveted toy, day out, special dinner, movie night or even a later bedtime on a Friday – if your child feels like they’re involved in the decision making, they’re more likely to go along with it! There’s also the option of getting involved in Trick or Treat for Temple Street and try to collect donations instead of sweets!
3. Take the focus off the food
Have fun doing other Halloween related activities – telling (appropriate) ghost stories, carving pumpkins, bobbing for apples, costume creations, movies and more! There is no reason that Halloween has to be focused on the sweets, if you are particularly nervous of trick or treating you can do a “costume show” around the neighbours houses and have you or your child tell them “I’m not trick or treating, I’m doing a costume show” In this case – don’t take a collection bag, and keep an eye out in case any sweets do exchange hands!
4. Plan ahead
If your child is still very young and you’ll only be calling to a few neighbours or relatives houses a great idea is to buy a small amount of Halloween related items – be they pencils, stickers, spider rings, sticky eyeballs, bouncy balls, decorations etc. Call around to neighbours houses before hand explaining that your child has diabetes and that you’d appreciate if they would hand your child the toy instead of sweets – go prepared and tell them what costume your child will be wearing and also that you will be with them so they can recognise you both. This way your small child can still join in the excitement and fun, and this will cut out any temptation or danger of fights when sweets are later rationed. Not all neighbours will oblige and if you’re living in a neighbourhood where you’re not that friendly with those around you this option may be a little daunting, but for those in a close community this should work great!
5. Snack time!
Make sure to bring a healthy snack to treat the “lows” from all the walking and excitement your little one will be experiencing. This will help them stay involved for longer, and also avoid the inevitable dip into the bag for sweets along the way! It’s better to treat any “lows” with something from home, rather than to play roulette with the treat bag!
6. Moderations is key
Remember it’s all about moderation, and altering meal plans to allow your child to be a kid for the day. Speak to your child’s doctor and ask how they recommend you can balance your child’s diet or insulin for the day so that they don’t miss out – I’m not talking a bag of sweets, but being able to ration out treats for a few days afterwards if taken with food and with the right precautions can make all the difference! So treat the day as you would any other – account for the sugar. Ask how much insulin is needed or how one or two treats could fit into a healthy diet. Keep an eye on your child’s intake for the day and into the evening to make sure you’re on top of it.
7. Remove the temptation
Once the sweets have been brought home and a decision has been made on what to do with the leftovers – remove the temptation! Whether it is going to a nursing home the next day to drop the sweet bag off, throwing it in the bin or bringing it in to work, do it straight away. You don’t need it lingering in your house tempting your children or yourself, or for any items to go missing!
8. Give your bowl a makeover too
Think of alternatives for the trick or treat bowl in your house too. Buy little packs of colouring pencils and inexpensive Halloween items that you can find in a € shop. This way your child (and family) won’t be tempted by a huge bowl of sweets that are sitting in the hall, and the inevitable left overs!
9. Take inventory!
Eliminate the chance for any items going mysteriously missing, and take stock of all sweets being kept – space out the distribution by letting your child pick one treat a day, or whatever schedule you have worked out with your GP and child. For the older child this can also turn into a learning exercise to demonstrate how to cover extra carbohydrates with insulin. Label each treat with a special coloured sticker and the amount of carbohydrate in each snack so that not only is your child taking an active interest in their diabetes, but they are learning how to control it. It also teaches them that their favourite food is not neccessarily off limits as they balance it out. This will also make it easier for meal planning in the coming days Mom!
10. Incorporate sweets into meals
When incorporating Halloween sweets try to have your child eat them with a meal, rather than as a snack by itself and work out the levels of carbohydrate for that meal– this will result in less of an impact on blood sugar levels.
11. Consistency is key
Let your child know that it is not just because of their diabetes that they should not overindulge, but that everyone needs to consider healthy eating. Whatever you do for your child with diabetes, you should also do for the other children/members of the family, so no one feels left out! Let your child know that moderation is important for everyone—not just people with diabetes. Whether your child has diabetes or not it’s important to actively monitor sugar consumption and promote healthy eating.
Halloween parties can be terrifying, and not just for the children! If there is a Halloween party in your child’s school/crèche offering to supply some of the treats or doing some of the baking can set your mind at ease that there will be something your child can safely eat there, especially if you’re not up for hosting! Don’t let your child feel left out of the fun- whether it’s packing him a special lunch to bring along, or altering his meal plan around him letting him have a small slice of cake. Discuss the practicalities with your child, and with any adult present if you can’t attend. Define what he’s allowed to eat and how much.
Halloween can send a shiver up the spine of parents as well as the children! While you will always be concerned over your child’s health and wellbeing, diabetes shouldn’t put a limit on your child’s ability to integrate and be involved in the holidays. Plan in advance how you will manage your child’s sugar intake, and discuss these plans with your child so that they know what to expect. Talk to your child’s doctor about how best to incorporate any extra treats for the days surrounding Halloween – what treats can your child have, how to balance their diet, and what treats should be avoided.
Remember your child is still a child so have fun this Halloween and try to shift the focus off the sugar!
Happy haunting everyone!