How To Handle Candy and Your Kids

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Happy (almost) Halloween!  In the past we’ve discussed subjects like costumes/being yourself/eating candy.

This year we thought it’d be interesting to discuss the role of parenting, and how that plays into the holiday.  Did you grow up being forbidden to trick-or-treat?  Is sugar a reward, is it looked at as evil?

How will you handle talking to your little ghosts and goblins this year?  Here’s some advice from Dana Sturtevant, MS, RD on Be Nourished:

Kids have the remarkable ability to regulate their food intake, if we let them- if we provide structured sit down meals and snacks and we don’t enhance the value of food by saying things like “Eat this, not that” and “You can have dessert once you finish your dinner.” And when they bring home their bag of Halloween candy, of course, OF COURSE, they are going to go overboard for a day or two. They’re kids! But most will lose interest after a few days and eat fewer and fewer pieces over time. It’s called the habituation effect, and there is science to back it up.

When it comes to food, don’t go after the “right” answer for your kids, go after the sustainable one that is steeped in trust that their relationship with food can be less conflicted than your own. Your child is truly developing a relationship with food. Just like the relationships we develop with other people, there are stages of trying, exploring, testing the boundaries, seeing what feels good and what doesn’t and then, over time moving into a more natural “known” rhythm. Your subtlest messages about food are powerful. If you communicate distrust of a food yourself or lean into simplifying food as good or bad, your child will notice and that food will gain power, whether it’s good or bad.

Letting your child explore food is an exercise in managing your own anxiety and parenting shame.  You are not bad or wrong if your child eats candy. But you may be anxious as you watch them fondle or even tear open those packages. This is tough. Everything is temporary, which might be one of the best parenting mantras of all time.

Happy Halloween everyone!