trick or treat
From the thrill of wearing a costume and becoming a favorite animal or character to the sheer glee of amassing huge quantities of candy, Halloween is a much anticipated, and hopefully enjoyed, night for kids. These joys, however, are also fraught with potential behavioral challenges, questions surrounding nutrition, and serious safety concerns. As Halloween quickly approaches, here are a few tips to facilitate a healthier and safer Halloween for your family.
1. Prepare And Set Expectations. Setting clear expectations before an event or activity can transform children’s behavior. Every family has different practices surrounding food, dessert, and candy. If candy is a rare treat in your family, consider introducing it gradually in the days leading up to Halloween. This helps reduce the desire to over-indulge and over-consume in one sitting. By making it less taboo and less of a novelty, kids don’t feel the same pressure to eat as much as they can at once. Set expectations in advance regarding storage of leftover candy, when it will be accessible, who is allowed to access it, etc. For younger kids, try turning teeth brushing into a game to ensure thorough brushing after any candy consumption. Depending on what intrigues your child, you might say something like “we have to tickle all the candy monsters!” or any other playful way to make brushing teeth more fun.
2. Assign Trick-Or-Treat Buddies. No matter your child’s age, be explicit before trick-or-treating begins about who each child will stay with – depending on age, that might be an adult or a sibling or a friend. Make sure everyone has a “buddy” and they know they must stick together. Halloween unfortunately presents a perfect opportunity for predators. Masks, costumes, and darkness distort appearance and make children more vulnerable. It is important to be calm and clear before the evening’s festivities begin about remaining together and not going off with anyone else. It is also useful to agree upon set routes, places to trick-or-treat, and a curfew, if you are sending older children off without you.
3. Check Candy Before Kids Consume It. Finally, be sure to have a conversation with your children about waiting to eat candy until you’ve had a chance to inspect it. For some, this might sound extreme or full-on “helicopter parenting,” but this year more than ever it is vital. The United States Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) has issued a warning regarding a recent rise in “rainbow fentanyl.” These pills are intentionally brightly colored to appear like candy with the aim of enticing and addicting children and youth. The DEA notes that not only is fentanyl highly addictive, but it can also result in significant harm or even death. Without raising an alarm or scaring your kids, you can simply check the candy for any tampering or anything that looks out of place before it’s time to dig in.
Almost all aspects of parenting necessarily involve balancing risk, and each family should make choices that are right for them. I hope these general tips provide you with awareness of current safety issues, and aid as guidelines or inspiration to help you and your children set appropriate boundaries. Happy Halloween!
Hannah Quinn is a certified pediatric nurse practitioner with an MS in Nursing from Vanderbilt University and a BA in English from Princeton University. She loves combining her areas of expertise and interests by writing about pediatric health. Hannah enjoys board games, being in the great outdoors, and most of all spending time with her husband, kids, and extended family. She is passionate about educating and equipping families to help their children thrive.