Making Halloween Fun for Allergic Kids by Caryn Talty
Every parent panics when they first learn that they have a child with a major food allergy or intolerance, but what do you do when your child has a laundry list of allergies and candy seems like an impossibility? How do you incorporate all the fun concepts of Halloween and really experience your childhood memories again through your own children when food becomes such a heavy weighing nuisance? For some even a tiny bite of an allergen is so dangerous it can threaten their child's life, and for others it is so damaging that it can cause an eruption of negative neurological symptoms or immunological reactions that lasts for days, possibly even weeks. Most folks don't understand this reality, so allergy aware parents are often fighting an uphill battle with well meaning friends, family members,and neighbors who may think that 'just a little' is okay every once in a while.
Last year we survived our first Halloween without all the trappings, and do you know what? We had a great time and the kids didn't miss the overflowing bowl of temptation one bit. I was quite nervous going into the holiday because at the time I was only just learning about alternative choices and didn't have the confidence that comes from having done it before. This year I've got no reservations, and fortunately my three kids are now so used to the way we do things around here that the influx of forbidden candy poses no threat to the guaranteed fun time we are bound to have with each other.
I thought I would share a little of what I've learned in hopes that it may inspire other folks to do some similar things with their allergic kids.
1. Go to a pumpkin patch to pick out a pumpkin instead of buying one in the store. They will remember their trips with you far more fondly than a bite of forbidden candy.
2. Make a costume with your child instead of buying one. This takes the focus off of commercialism and really gives a kid something to be proud of.
3. Become a room parent and help plan your child's school party. I quickly learned that most parents are more than willing to accommodate when they are made aware of dietary needs.
4. Role play proper responses with your child when they are offered candy. We rehearse what folks might say and how my son needs to respond. This has come in handy on many occasions.
5. Bring a small baggie of safe snacks for your child at parties. I always keep goodies in my bag and they are great way to keep my kids from feeling alienated when snacks are being passed around.
6. Bring non-edible treats and appropriate snacks to your neighbors' homes prior to trick-or-treating with your kids. We did that last year and since then we found that our friends and neighbors have become very thoughtful about what to give our kids. These were the only treats that our kids kept.
7. Make a tradition of donating your candy each year. We chose to donate our stash to the green goblin, who needs to eat candy year-around in the underground cave where he lives. He surfaces each Halloween to make his collections and always leaves a present for unselfish children who leave him their candy. Selfish boys and girls need to beware, because he has been known to trick them! Our kids are small, but an older child may want to donate to a homeless shelter or nursing home instead.
8. Give out non-edible treats. It makes a statement to the community and makes you a role model for your kids. I did this last year and was quite surprised at how excited the kids were when they realized we were not giving out candy. Who knows, in time this might become a more popular trend.
9. Don't let the kids catch you eating candy. This is vital, especially if you are dealing with little people. I gave a small bag of it to my husband who kept it in his car until it was gone. We just got it all out of the house immediately.
10. Check your library, local high schools, community centers for activities. There are plenty of fun activities going on in the community during Halloween that are not candy centric. Participating in these activities will promote a healthy attitude and the kids will enjoy themselves without focusing on the candy. This year we plan to go to the local high school for a face painting, game playing, craft making party. Last year we went to the library for some book readings.