Halloween has a tendency to create some conflicted feelings in us as parents.
Our child self so deeply remembers the joy of having the opportunity to gather vast amounts of candy, swapping and enjoying to our hearts content.
Our adult self knows the deeper repercussions of too much processed sugar, food dye, plastic waste, and more, never mind looking forward to the joy of tired and sugar-hungover children the following day.
Suffice it to say, knowing how to handle Halloween as a parent is not a simple task.
Throughout the years of navigating many Halloweens and trying out things like the dentist buy-back, the candy fairy (wow, did that one get out of control!), and letting them binge then quietly throwing it away a few days later, I decided to step back and take a look at the situation through a different lens.
After all, relationship with food is something I help people with all day. And, here I was, missing a distinct opportunity for the kids to develop connection with their body.
So, instead of methods of control and divisive ways to minimize access, I decided to encourage mindful eating and embodiment practices that help them learn (for themselves) to listen deeply for the answers versus having somebody outside of them deliver control.
Now, as we head into Halloween…
We focus on eating a protein and nutrient-dense meal before-hand and talk about how that can minimize a spike in blood sugar and helps off-set the nutrients required for the digestion and processing of sugar.
And, since candy is usually consumed a little differently than most other days on Halloween, we talk about treating it like an experiment.
I ask them to simply notice if the candy tastes different if they eat it while they are moving and walking or if they take a moment to sit down and enjoy it. We might pause for a moment and give the body a chance to say, “yes! I want more” or “no, I’m good for now.” And, when those pauses don’t happen (because, let’s face it, how willing are kids to take a mindful break while trick-or-treating?), we assess at the end of the night by asking questions, such as:
- How does my body feel right now?
- What do I notice about the details of my body, such as my heartbeat, my breathing, my stomach?
- Did I have enough candy or could I still eat more?
- When I lie down and quiet myself, what does my body want to tell me?
What is most important about these questions is that they are asked without a sense of judgement or expectation and used purely as a way to simply observe and gather information.
This practice of inquiry and mindfulness can continue into the following days. It is a wonderful way (and, overall, short-lived) for children to practice tuning into their body in this deeper way.
As a nutritionist, one thing I’ve observed about many kids who are tuned into their bodies following a large amount of sugar consumption is that they often tend to seek out foods that will help their body reset. For example, my kids often want bone broth, sea weed, nuts, and seeds.
Their body knows.
When we give them the freedom to explore, we help connect them to this knowing.
What a gift.