One of my childhood Halloween memories is going to a church event when I was about 9 years old. I was dressed up as the pop music singer Cyndi Lauper. My costume was complete with thick make-up, layers of costume jewelry and sprayed on orange hair color.
The church fellowship hall was set up with stations of various Halloween games, where children could participate in each game for candy. I remember enthusiastically participating in bobbing for apples! I dunked my face into the ice water and turned the tub of water bright orange!
This Halloween will be VERY different. Due to the pandemic, Halloween celebrations will be smaller and closer to home. Some families are trick-or-treating inside their house room-to-room, while others are planning egg-hunt style candy gatherings in their yards. We are planning to make small goodie bags filled with candy and leaving them for trick-or-treaters in our driveway. No matter what your plans are for Halloween, I invite you to consider the language you use in your home about Halloween and candy.
Food and Language
How we talk to and around children about food has a lasting impact. Do we want our children to remember the fun and silly parts of Halloween events, or the fear-based diet culture messages about the candy and treats?
We all know candy isn’t the most nutritious food item out there. However, food and our relationship with food is complicated. It’s not black and white. As we raise children to have a positive relationship around all foods, the goal is not for them to eat the most nutritious food today. We need to zoom out. The goal is for them to have exposure to different foods in neutral and positive ways and grow up with food being important, but not TOO important, in their lives. Children learn best through modeling and experiences, not necessarily from what we tell them with our words.
Candy is an important part of Halloween and if we make it forbidden or evoke fear or shame around it, we complicate our children’s (and our own) relationship with food. The more an item is forbidden, typically children will seek out that food more. As children seek out the forbidden food item, they may feel feelings of shame:
“If candy is bad, and I eat candy, am I bad?”
Other children, may become fearful of the forbidden food, avoiding it all together with anxiety and confusion about why trusted adults make the “bad” food available to them:
“If candy is bad and will hurt me, why is my mom letting me get candy?”
Let’s eliminate the spooky language of Halloween.
Instead of saying:
- “Whoa, you need to keep that candy away from me.”
- “Mommy can’t eat bad food like that.”
- “Be careful, you’re going to have all of that bad food from Halloween.”
- “We’re going to be bad tonight, tomorrow we’ll eat healthfully.”
- “You better eat lots of healthy food tonight before we go out and get all that junk.”
- “Let’s sit down and eat supper before we head out for the fun.”
- “Look at your stash. Yum!”
- “I loved seeing your excitement tonight! Your costume was amazing.”
- “Reese’s are my favorite. Can I have one?”
- “What it your favorite candy that you got tonight?”
Diet culture has snuck into almost all parts of parenting. I will not let diet culture make Halloween scarier than it’s supposed to be and steal the fun. By not demonizing candy, we model for our children that it’s okay for it to be a part of their lives, and we support them in growing up to not have a conflicted relationship with food and their bodies.