Dealing with Children, Societal Pressure, and Halloween

day-of-the-dead

This is the day after the celebration of the Day of the Dead. Maybe mothers could take back the holidays and make them into something healthy for our children.

As a parent dealing with young children, I have struggled with wanting my children to have the best quality food possible and living in a toxic food society. So what’s a mother to do? Should I be a killjoy or conform to societal norms and allow my children to consume industrial junk? I refuse to call this junk, food.

As I see it, if we had one or two holidays a year that indulged the consumption of industrial junk, it wouldn’t be a problem. If all children normally ate whole foods from a quality source, I wouldn’t be worried. Unfortunately, industrial junk has become the normal daily fare for children and adults alike. It is also possible that industrial junk, for special occasions, has been the wedge that has increased industrial junk consumption throughout the year. Some people believe industrial junk is addictive and giving it to children will lead to a lifelong battle. Please read Zapping Sugar Cravings.

It has been the policy in our household to allow our children to go trick-or-treating for Halloween. Since my children never eat industrial junk, I feel it is okay for them to have one holiday a year where they can totally indulge in industrial junk. In fact, I feel my children need to have some exposure to industrial junk as part of their education. Here is how our household deals with Halloween:

  1. We allow the children to eat as much of the candy as they like for the one evening.
  2. If they don’t like the candy, I encourage them to spit-out the candy and discard it into a pile of refuse.
  3. After they have eaten their fill, the candy goes in the garbage. It is one of the few times I encourage wastefulness.

What I like about this policy is that I can conform to societal norms while at the same time feel confident I’m not hurting my children’s health. It’s just once a year, right? Unfortunately, after doing this program for a number of years, I have noticed a few negative outcomes, including lying and hoarding.

Every year my children agree to this arrangement around Halloween. They love dressing up and plan their homemade costumes for months. The act of going trick-or-treating and the excitement of the night is irresistible. When they get home, they are happy to spit-out yucky tasting candies and are grateful that I’m not worried about wastefulness. Within a few hours, the super sweet binge is over and the candy goes in the garbage.

Well, that’s the plan. But my children have dumpster dived for candy and even gone to the trouble of hiding candy at a friend’s home. I find the behavior of my children strange. Normally, my children don’t lie or hide a hoard, but candy seems to have the power to motivate them into less than ideal behavior. Even indulging once a year, these sugary treats have a powerful hold on my children.

I really don’t know what to do. As a mother I can only do so much. Our household is like an island in a sea of community. Without the support of other like-minded families, our battle with industrial junk is likely a losing one. In my mind’s eye, I can see our community change the nature of our holidays and make them fun and nourishing for our children. Jill Escher has some ideas about how Moms could transform Halloween.

One new idea I’m going to try this Halloween is to “trade” industrial junk for artisan quality chocolate. I would prefer to know and control the ingredients that are in their treats. My hope is that quality chocolate and confectioneries will educate my children’s pallet. None of my children have taken me up on this offer yet, but I am hopeful. Honestly, can a high quality organic chocolate or confectionery lose out to industrial junk? I will find out this year.

I find it ironic, that as I try not to buckle under societal pressure regarding Halloween, Michael Schmidt is into day 23 of his hunger strike, fighting for our collective food freedom. So what’s it going to be: trick-or-treat?

November 4, 2011: Both girls decided to trade their industrial junk for artisan quality chocolate, organic chips, organic mulberries, and organic nut butters. It was interesting to see what the girls wanted but the price tag was high. I spent about $150 on this experiment. We planned for a Bon Bon Fire but everyone was too tired by the end of an exciting Halloween day. I just gave away the industrial junk. My eldest daughter went to her first Halloween dance and enjoyed chocolate cupcakes and a few pieces of industrial junk. Yesterday, she ended up in bed with her first cold of the year. Some people believe sugar will suppress the immune system for a number of hours after ingestion. I treated her with homemade Elderberry Syrup and local propolis for sore throat and Hibiscus tea for extra vitamin C. I also made up some soothing homemade chicken vegetable soup with extra garlic.

December 8, 2012: Here is a documentary called Big Sugar: Sweet, White and Deadly by Brian McKenna. Join the movement to have a sugar-free Halloween.

December 30, 2012: Diet plays a very big roll in mental health. Here is a lecture by Dr Russell Blaylock about how poor nutrition can bring a young person into a world of violence, crime, depression and suicide. Not very sweet news.

Updated October 30, 2016: It’s been a long time since I wrote this post. Since I wrote this post, my girls have become young women. They are past the days of getting excited about dress-up and trick-or-treat. We now have a Mexican feast or Meat Lover’s Pizza for Halloween. We also enjoy watching a scary or spooky movie together! No candy to be found anywhere! I hope you have a safe and enjoyable Halloween!

7 thoughts on “Dealing with Children, Societal Pressure, and Halloween

  1. Pingback: Creative Ways to Reduce Candy Consumption on Halloween | Be Food Smart

  2. Thanks Caroline for posting this. Bowen and I have been discussing how we want to approach Halloween too. We were thinking of doing 4 hours of eating candy and trashing the rest…that’s what Bowen’s family did….but I was still not settled about it. Although there is the risk he will turn to sweets as he gets older I don’t like the idea of feeding it to him voluntarily. I appreciate having someone who also feels besieged by culture norms. I want my son to fill his body with healthy foods but it is not easy to stand alone, especially when you want to be able to go to other people’s house, play groups and parties.
    Sonja told me about your offers to trade for quality and I like that idea!

  3. Hi Wendy,

    We did the artisan chocolate and organic munchies but Sonja got sick within three days. I am starting to believe sugar does have a negative effect on immune response. Also, Sonja had the pleasure of her first Halloween dance and exposure to two hundred children. I noticed a reduction of illness in my two girls when they became home schooled. Schools appear to be breeding ground and incubator for childhood illnesses.

  4. Hi Caroline,
    I have had a few discussions recently on sugar and it’s effects. Although I already intuitively believed it to be bad for us and I know from my own body that it is addictive and breaks me down, more people have been find the same for themselves. A pharmacist I am friends with told me she read an article that describes sugar effects and compares them to other things we label before we ingest and if you compare it to other “chemicals” we use it would and should be categorized as a poison or toxin. When I heard that it felt right to me based on what my body says. My sister and I have also discussed the different corn syrups and feel that it mimics honey but seems to have effects like sugar on the body as well.

    So to me I am feeling more and more apprehensive about allowing any sugar into our diets. The hardest part is following that belief when few around you also believe or even follow similar guidelines. I am trying to replace our sugar entirely with honey and have rarely bought sugar in the last 9 years…but it really something constantly being introduced to your child by others. It is being used as a reward system by all kinds of groups, especially for things that should have no reward. I am afraid Atticus will stop enjoying his lunch when he sees “Johnny” getting a candy or dessert or any reward for eating their lunch…which might also look like a reward. I want him to eat his lunch because it contains the nutrients he needs…there shouldn’t be a reward for doing something necessary for life…and it bothers me when others make the food I am feeding my son appear to be anything but desirable by offering a reward to him for doing something that he already does by following his body’s signals.

    Even though Sonja got sick, I like that you are actively seeking alternatives to events like Halloween. I especially appreciate that I can glean knowledge from your experiences…it is especially helpful for Bowen to understand where I am wanting to go and why.

  5. Hi Wendy,

    Breaking from the norm is never easy. In my experience the change starts with myself. If I have found something that really works well, it moves out to my partner and family. Later, as I start to have notable positive results, extended family become interested and involved. Soon, friends and acquaintances see the difference and get excited about making their own changes and improvements. The spread at this point is like a positive virus. Small communities of people can change overnight.

    Change is very hard for many people. Resistance to change, even positive change, isn’t easy. But Mothers are a special case. They love their children with a passion that cannot be understood by the outsider. It’s my bet that Mothers could make this change happen very quickly. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if Kamloops birthed a massive country wide movement towards Healthy Halloween?

  6. Oh I think that would be fantastic. Thanks for the positive, supportive and inspiring words and attitude!

  7. Pingback: Trick or Treat. I’m Done.

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