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How To Halloween During A Pandemic

If you're anything like me you're feeling a great deal of conflict about Halloween this year. Am I right?

I thought I had this all worked out years ago when I triumphantly declared how I had made peace with Halloween and had learned to enjoy it again.

(related post: How I Calmed The MamaBear And Made Peace With Halloween)

But then 2020 happened and, you know... the world went topsy-turvy.

I mean, fortifying mental and physical resilience has never been so important and I've spent the last 10 years distilling for parents the top strategies to focus on to improve it in their kids. Fact is, sugar undermines them all! 

(Related post: The Secret To Good Health, Calm & Confidence)

Since the 1970s we've known that sugar temporarily shocks white blood cells into a coma leaving open a potential 5 hour window of opportunity for infection to take hold (source). The study was done in a petri dish, but yikes! I want my kids' Neutrophils to be in tip top shape right now!

There are all kinds of ways sugar negatively effects how we and our kids feel, learn and function so maybe this year, with a pandemic raging and anxiety levels through the roof, we could just cancel Halloween and avoid all this biological stress?

(Related posts: Teen Anxiety, Is It Nutritional?  Can Changing A Child's Diet Help ADHD?  Aggression In Kids, What's Causing It?  Top Tips To Cut Sugar Cravings)

Then again, our kids need holidays, right? The last thing we want to do is deny them  whatever fun might be available when life is so stressful.

Well, to that I'd say yes and no. Maybe this is just another example of how we need to shift our perspective about things and find the opportunity amidst the challenge.

It's something to think about that takes me back to this post about making my peace with Halloween (hint: making my peace was all about shifting my perspective and how we chose the frame it with our kids. Back then it was a choice; now, maybe our hands are being forced).

So how can we find a solution to Halloween that feels good this year?

I asked this question in our Raising Resilience Community facebook group and boy did they have some good ideas! I've posted them below along with some of my own suggestions. But before you read them, understand that there's no right answer here.

What feels good to each of us is going to be different. It'll depend on what you've found to be your child's absolutes and where you've found the wiggle room.

(related post: A Simple Little Parenting Ninja Trick)

Here are some ideas from our community on how to tackle Halloween

Leeanne says, "This year we're doing Halloween themed food, scary movies, crafts and then some trick or treating (a couple blocks). Half or more of the candy goes to the candy fairy. Our city is suggesting putting treats in individual bags to hand out and have them placed on a table outside for kids to easily grab so it doesn't get congested at the door, or to hand out with tongs instead of hands.”

Gretchen said, “the kids are dressing up, we are having a candy hunt and playing good old fashioned games in the dark with flashlights and glow sticks.”

Kiran had this idea: “We’re dressing up and doing a Halloween scavenger hunt at home, plus some games and crafts."

Alyssa says she and the kids are going to a fun & safe event in her community and then are doing “inside trick-or-treating” (each door inside the house is a trick or treat spot). “At least then I control more of the candy!” she said. 

Angie told us her family always goes bowling in full costume on Halloween due to food allergies. This year if they can't go bowling they will stay home, watch a movie, and eat candy in their PJs.

Annie is planning Halloween fun at home. They are doing a candy hunt in the back forest with glow sticks and she has tasked everybody to come up with 1-2 Halloween activities they can do during the day (since Halloween falls on a Saturday). It's an all-day party at Annie's house! 

Kalindi posted a great picture of a “candy chute” they’ll make for their front railing as a way to hand out candy to trick or treaters. Her neighbourhood community association is collecting addresses of houses that are participating so they plan to go to those houses for a block or two in full costume. “I LOVE costumes so always look forward to Halloween”, she wrote.

I love how these mamas are focusing on the festivity and the fun rather than on the candy. I also love how they all plan on participating in the fun with their kids. Halloween can be a great time for family fun and connection... it doesn't have to be all about the candy.

Here are some further ways to support your kids 

  1. Try the Switch Witch.

    This is something to try if trick-or-treating is "on" in your neighbourhood. Leeanne mentioned the idea above but called it the Candy Fairy. Same idea. There are many ways to go about this, but the idea is to swap out their candy for something else - books, toys or even other candies that meet your approval.

    Some of my top swap picks are books, stickers, gift cards, games, Smart Sweets for the candy lovers, MidDay Squares or ChocXO Keto chocolate for chocolate lovers. You might be surprised at their willingness to swap out the junk for something better!


  2. Structure in recuperation time.

    Since Halloween lands on a Saturday this year, if everyone’s immune system is going to be in shock for 5 hours at least recovery can be within the safety of your own home. This year I'm going to tell my kids to binge everything at once and get it all done with (once we’ve done our swaps). I've completely booked off Sunday and am planning to be present and equipped with nourishing snacks and meals and put in some connection time with the kids.

  3. BonFire with Homemade Marshmallows (and the recipe I use)

    This is something we’ll be doing, hopefully with the neighbours, socially distanced, and in full costume.

    Click Here to download the recipe for homemade marshmallows my kids beg me all year to make! They're still full of sugar (I use maple syrup), but at least it's
    real sugar and they're also full of protein. I’ll use these as one of the swaps for the candy. 

    TIP for roasting homemade marshmallows: You can roast homemade marshmallows over a bonfire but let them dry out on the counter for about 5 days first - they'll roast better. They’re also great in hot chocolate. 

  4. On the topic of hot chocolate.... (and how to use it for immune health)

    This is another great treat to have around the bonfire if you have chocolate lovers. Cocoa Camino makes an amazing additive-free hot chocolate mix and I add this immune-supporting mushroom blend to boost its nutrition and support immune health (use my affiliate code JSHERMAN to get 10% off!). Adding some homemade marshmallows will also add a hefty dose of protein, but who needs to know?!

  5. Be vigilant about sleep.

    Halloween is one of many "stress storms" our kids will encounter in their lives - that is, it's a short period during which they experience a more-than-normal amount of stress (in this case in the form of junk food). Restorative sleep is our most amazing reset button for stress storms. Again, it's a blessing Halloween lands on a Saturday this year. Plan for some serious family downtime, nourishment and rest on Sunday to let the body recoup. 

  6. Use nutritional supplements. 

    Sugar has been shown to contribute to deficiency in vitamins and minerals like vitamin C, magnesium, zinc, sodium, calcium, B vitamins, and chromium either by increasing requirements, stimulating excretion, or decreasing absorption (source and source).

    This is a great time to use a good multi vitamin or targeted nutrients to support the body while it tries to re-balance. (Read more about supplements here and don't forget the amazing mushrooms I mentioned and also, of course, the simple magic of hydration!).

Remember... when it comes to the negative effect of stress on the body, all stress - whether it's psychological or biological - undermines resilience (so yea, the angst you might be feeling about the sugar is just about as bad as the sugar itself!).

The good news is that our bodies have remarkable ways to tolerate stress - even sugar.  We just might need to give it a little help. The other good news is that when we make Halloween about hanging with the family and connecting and having fun, it's soooo much more fun anyhow. So don't despair if Trick-or-Treating has been cancelled in your neighbourhood. Find the possibilities within the challenge.

(related post: Three Things I Think About On A Daily Basis)

Best thing you can do for your health and that of your kids this Halloween is to find a strategy that feels good and authentic to you. Maybe it's time we all re-think this holiday anyway and use this challenge to find the opportunity for growth. I hope this has helped you find some ideas.

Got more ideas for how to Halloween in a pandemic? Share them in the comments to inspire other parents!

------ 

https://www.kitchenstewardship.com/kids-eat-white-sugar/

https://academic.oup.com/ajcn/article-abstract/26/11/1180/4732762

https://nyaspubs.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/j.1749-6632.1969.tb13011.x

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4975866/

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About Jess Sherman, M.Ed, R.H.N

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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