Halloween can be a superb holiday. It has spectral history and creative aplomb (think of all of those costumes and decorated lawns). It has a soupçon of fear and creepiness (what’s inside that old house on the corner with the peeling paint and the squeaking screen door?). What’s not to like about Halloween?
Well, for children with diabetes and their parents, Halloween can be a holiday with a lot of anxiety.
Because what Halloween means for most children and their parents is Trick or Treating. And Trick or Treating means candy. And candy, too much of it (the definition of which varies according to the individual) can mean high blood sugars.
Still, this doesn’t mean you can’t find a way to enjoy Halloween like everyone else.
The first thing to remember is that this day should be fun for your child and for you. If you give it some thought and do some planning, it won’t dissolve into (worse case) a screaming match between one harried adult and one pouting, crabby child having a meltdown over sugary treats.
The trick (groan!!) is to find a way to put the emphasis on fun or on controlling the risk for problems with hyperglycemia.
Suggestions of things to do
We talked to parents in the Pediatric Unit here at the Joslin Diabetes Center and asked them how they cope with Halloween.
Here are four of their more interesting suggestions. Many parents suggested changing the focus of the night from trick or treating to something that doesn’t center on candy:
Make it all about dress-up. Get immersed in choosing costumes, decorate your house and lawn—make it THE neighborhood attraction! Throw a costume party with diabetes-friendly foods for kids.
Have a party and turn the focus of the night away from gathering swag to telling & reading ghost stories. There are lots of good ghost stories, and some of the best were written by literary giants: Henry James, Edgar Allen Poe, Charlotte Bronte, Sir O. Henry, Oscar Wilde, and Nathaniel Hawthorne. If your child is old enough, introduce him or her to Icabod Crane or the Turn of the Screw. Talk to your town librarian for ideas.
Two parents said that trick or treating was so important to their children that they had to let them join in the fun. Here’s what they suggest, if you find yourself in the same situation:
Buy the loot! If you don’t want your child to get stuck with having to resist the temptations of all that candy, find something he or she likes more and do some trading. Little kids like stickers and things; older children may appreciate cold, hard cash.
Set up a candy bank. Make a deal with your child, that he or she can have a certain amount each week. Let them decide which pieces they want to eat first and which they want to save for later. You control the withdrawals.
If you’re a parent, how do you handle Halloween? Share your ideas with us.