How to Handle Halloween Candy

A mom asked me the following question re: Halloween candy: "Christine, how did you handle Halloween candy with Laurel and Violet? Specifically, how did you curb their candy intake? My husband thinks Halloween candy is the gateway to disaster and serious addictions to junk food/candy afterwards."

This is a good question! And the good news, it really is possible to enjoy Halloween without complete candy-related meltdowns. Below are 10 tips on how to handle Halloween candy. We’ve successfully made it through 13 Halloweens meltdown-free thanks to these tactics!

1. Beware of restricting completely

Like many things in life, moderation = good and I think the real problem comes when you restrict completely. I've seen this happen with other families and also am speaking from personal parents were super restrictive with sweets and I became a lunatic driven to occasionally shoplifting Swedish fish. (I truly wish the convenience store from which I procured my Swedish fish was still there so I could pay them back.)

2. Have your kids eat real food first

A good rule of thumb is that real food consumption, ideally including fruits and vegetables, must precede sugar. The whole, “everyone who eats a good dinner can have a treat afterwards” thing totally works.

3. Teach moderation

Little kids naturally self-regulate, but as they get older (and their eyes get bigger than their stomach) you may need to remind them about moderation. We’ve always encouraged the girls to listen to their stomachs and in the face of something richer than usual, offering a reminder such as, "Is your tummy starting to hurt? Don't eat until you get sick!" (If your kid had an experience in the past where they ate treats until they got a stomach ache, this is a good time to remind them of that feeling.) This approach has worked really well for us.

4. Set some limits

Decide on a fixed limit for consumption. For example, allow 1-2 pieces of candy after a meal, no negotiations.

5. Be consistent

Whatever rule you set up in #4, BE CONSISTENT. This is the key to almost everything with parenting. The less consistent you are, the more your (clever) children will realize they can beg and whine until you cave in. Less begging and whining = good! BE CONSISTENT!

6. Limit the drama

Kids feed off our emotions. Like 100% restriction, the bigger a deal you make of it, the more they will want it. Just be matter of fact about your decisions and limit the drama.

7. Make teeth brushing contingent on eating candy

It’s amazing how the nuisance of teeth brushing (not at the typical teeth brushing times) will kill the desire for eating candy! We actually do this for functional/preventative reasons because our kids’ teeth are super cavity-prone.

8. Teach about consequences

If candy consumption really becomes a difficult issue, teach your kids about consequences. If they become insufferable over candy, get rid of it all! Trust me, they will remember next year.

9. Change the giving rules in your home

If you want to model less candy consumption, try passing out Halloween candy alternatives. It will show them that there can be other ways to celebrate.

10. Share the loot

I highly recommend that within the first few days after Halloween to use the event (and the bounty) as a teachable moment. Have your kids donate half their stash to send to the troops via something like Operation Gratitude or Soldiers’ Angels. Turns out Violet’s school is also collecting Halloween candy for a buyback fundraiser, and they will also be sharing donations with the city library for a holiday gingerbread house project. SO COOL.

How to handle Halloween candy with kids

How to handle Halloween candy with kids