When I became a parent, Halloween down right enraged me. The mamabear in me was horrified - outraged, even - at the thought of allowing my children to go door-to-door to receive poison. Poison! Let’s call a spade a spade... sugar = poison. We all know it to be true.
Are you rolling your eyes at me? Or are you joining in on my war cry? Stay with me... I want to share with you how I have made peace with Halloween.
The whole Halloween thing made me erupt. I was being asked to violate one of my fundamental core values - supporting the health of kids! Hell no! I thought. As much as I wanted to be able to, I just could not chill out about it….
But what was a hyper-health-conscious-stick-in-the-mud-nutritionist-mom to do?
Was I going to be that mom who turned off the lights and forbid her kids to trick or treat? Was I going to whisk them away to a cabin in the woods until it all passed?
I thought about it, but nope... those didn’t seem to be viable options this year.
Watching my kids have a costume party together on the living room floor, make up scary rhymes, decorate the windows with glow-in-the-dark spider webs, carve pumpkins.... it is all undeniably adorable and their excitement is contagious.
So what I did instead was shift my perspective. And that has made all the difference.
1. Enjoy the festivity of a festival
Festivals are important for children. Having predictable rituals throughout the year helps them mark the passage of time. This provides structure for them, which in turn provides comfort.
So, in our family we anticipate the arrival of Halloween and talk about it as a festival that helps shuttle in the winter season and the longer nights. We bring the tradition of lighting candles back to our dinner table and pull out our warmer PJs again.
2. Celebrating as a Community
When we moved from our off-grid-end-of-the-road homestead into the city, we were thrilled to find out that we had landed in a community that comes together to celebrate Halloween.
It started quite simply - over a decade ago - when several families with young children decided to meet in the park and have a party. This initiative grew into a yearly event.
Hundreds of families and a handful of local musicians now gather at the park every Halloween evening and have a costume parade. It’s simple. It’s fun. It’s festive. We dance. We gawk at costumes. We see our friends. We trick or treat a little on the way home.
The parade became the focus of our Halloween.
We were lucky to stumble into this, but it’s never too late to start a tradition in your own community. It can be a particularly helpful strategy if you have a child on a special diet who can not have candy.
3. The Halloween Switch Witch
This worked wonderfully for the first few years.
The Switch Witch, or the Halloween Witch, is a kind old witch or fairy who loves candy. You can make up whatever story you'd like about her. What we came up with is this...
She is too shy to come out on Halloween with everyone else, so she waits until everyone is in bed and then she scavenges for the left overs. If you leave her an offering of candy, she will leave you a gift in return.
We told our kids that they could keep as many candies as the number of years they are old, and that it is then customary to leave her the rest for the witch. In the morning there is a gift waiting for them and the candy is gone.
4. Understand the effect of sugar on the body and be proactive (and reactive).
Once my kids got a bit older, we turned to this strategy.
Sugar does a number on the body. It feeds pathogenic yeast in the gut, robs the body of minerals, de-regulates blood sugar, and suppresses immune cells (and that’s just the sugar part of the candy! We'll talk about the additives, GMO-ness, and colours another time!)
So, to be ready for that here's what we do (pre-halloween and post-halloween)...
I make a lot of bone broth (great for minerals and immune health), I make elderberry syrup, sprinkle Camu powder everywhere I can to boost vitamin C, I give them Deep Immune for Kids (my favourite immune booster), extra vitamins A and D, and Magnesium, and I stay vigilant with their multi vitamins.
Halloween used to make the Mamabear in me roar with anger and frustration. But a shift in perspective and these simple strategies have made it fun again - for our whole family.
Halloween is another example about how focusing on resilience has made a huge difference for me in my parenting.
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Jess is a Registered Holistic Nutritionist™ and Family Health Educator, specializing in brain health & resilience for kids. She is the author of Raising Resilience: Take the stress out of feeding your family & love your life, a mother and an advocate for children’s health. Her book and online resources have helped families all over the world improve the lives of their children with learning differences, anxiety, ADHD, autism and mood disorders by fitting the food and feeding piece into their health puzzles. She is the 2019 recipient of the CSNNAA award for Clinical Excellence for her work helping families get healthier, and she continues to work at bringing an understanding of the power of good nutrition to the mainstream conversation about children’s mental health, learning, and overall resilience through her blog, courses and as a contributor to print and online magazines. You can reach Jess at www.jesssherman.com
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