Halloween | Ideas for Managing When Your Child Has Diabetes

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.


  1. No matter what alternatives there might be, we have always found it hard to deny our daughter the door-to-door candy fest. She has been wonderful, however about understanding that she can only have a little at a time so our solution is pretty much like the “candy bank” mentioned in the article. We also have the added struggle of celiac so we go through and swap out the gluten candy with her brother. When he is willing to swap, of course! : )

  2. I am a 57 years old and have had diabetes for 47 yrs. When I was a child I would collect all my halloween candy trick or treating and then sell it to the neighborhood kids and sibblings. It was a good time for all.

  3. Having Type 1 myself I know how challenging it can be for parents. On the one hand you want your children to share the fun and not feel different in any way on the other hand it’s important to recognize the need for maintaining healthy choices as much as possible.

    The best one I’ve ever heard of from a parent of a child with diabetes was after all of the trick or treating was over, they let their child choose a set number of treats. The rest went into a bowl in the middle of the kitchen table. When the child went to bed it was with the understanding that the Halloween Fairy would leave a special surprise overnight and take away the junk. The next morning the junk was gone, a small toy that the child wanted was there in it’s place and all thanks to the Halloween Fairy! Very cute and effective for small children…and a precursor to negotiation tactics (as noted in the previous postings) for when they get older. I love the posting from the person who sold their candy for cold hard cash, awesome, why didn’t I think of that???

  4. Dentists in my local community (NATICK, MA) are collecting the candy to send oversees to the men and women in uniform in Afghanistan and Iraq.

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