Monday, October 29, 2007

Trick-or-Treat Survival Tips

I brought my box of Halloween decorations up from the basement last night. It’s sitting in the dining room now. I haven’t actually taken anything out of the box, but I think if I leave it where we have to walk around it every once in a while, that’s festive enough.

My son, on the other hand, is so excited for Halloween he can hardly sit still. He’s been counting down the days since August, poring over Halloween costume catalogs with his friends and calculating which streets he’ll hit to get the most candy.

He doesn’t care that he won’t be able to eat half of what he gets. The candy is nice, but it’s really the least important part of the whole night – the adventure is what’s important! Dressing up, seeing everyone else in costumes, wandering around after dark with flashlights and glowsticks, knocking on door after decorated door yelling “trick-or-treat,” and marveling at a normally quiet neighborhood crawling with ghouls and beasties – oh, it’s a night kids dream about!

As usual, we parents of food-allergic kids often blow the candy thing way out of proportion. So today I’m going to talk about some trick-or-treat survival tips.

Halloween isn’t nearly as much about the candy as it is about “getting” the candy. So as a parent, I don’t feel guilty, sad, distressed, worried, or angry that my kid is going to get a bucket-full of candy he can’t eat. I don’t want him eating a bucket-full of candy, anyway! The first year we dealt with allergies, I decided not to throw the baby out with the bathwater, or in this case, I decided not to throw the whole experience of trick-or-treating out with a few handfuls of candy.

So if you’re struggling with what to do, stop struggling. Let your kid go trick-or-treating (or trunk-or-treating, if that’s your preference). It’s okay. Just lay down some rules before-hand, so there are no surprises. Then let them enjoy the adventure of trick-or-treating, because that’s really what it’s all about. Here are some survival tips that work for us:

Tip #1: No one eats anything until everyone gets home and the parent reads the label on every piece of candy. That way, no one is eating unidentified foods and having a reaction while you’re out in the dark a block away from home. Make sure the kids agree, understand, and agree again. Get them to narc on each other if necessary. No one sneaks anything.

Tip #2: If you child is super-sensitive to an ingredient, you might have them wear gloves with their costume, so that any allergenic candy that touches their hand on the way into the bag doesn’t cause a skin reaction. Toss the glove in the wash or in the trash when you get home.

Tipe #3: Unlabeled candy is assumed to be unsafe. Period. The only exceptions are brand-name candies that you are already familiar with and know are safe. (For example, I know Dum-Dum lollipops, Starbursts, and Skittles are okay for my son, so I’ll let him keep those.) If there is a type of candy that he’s particularly interested in, I might promise to look for it at the store the next day, and read the ingredients there. But it goes into a separate container until we’ve seen it at the store and verified its safety.

Tip #4: Talk about what to do with any candy that isn’t safe BEFORE you go trick-or-treating. My son's an only child, and he has a good friend who is, too. They go trick-or-treating together, and at the end of the night, they pool all their candy together, then divide it up. She gets all the candy he can’t have (except for the Three Musketeers bars – those are mine!), and she gives him the “safe” candy. It works out about evenly. Sometimes she ends up with a little more, but my son doesn’t mind. He’s actually grateful that she’s taking the “bad” stuff. Plus it’s a lot more fun to go trick-or-treating with a best pal than by themselves, so they’re willing to do whatever it takes to get a night together.

If your kids don’t have friends willing to trade candy, other options for getting rid of “unsafe” candy include:

1) Trade unsafe candy for safe candy that you have bought ahead of time.

2) “Buy” the unsafe candy from your child – but establish a price ahead of time, such as a nickel a piece, a dollar a pound, or the whole kit and caboodle for a new DVD, a small toy, a trip to the movies, a night out with Dad, a visit to the dollar store, or other such treat.

3) Look for a dentist or other business in your area that buys candy from kids on the day after Halloween. There’s at least one dentist in Layton that does. The kids get money, and the dentist donates the candy to a children’s hospital, I think.

4) Let the child “donate” the unsafe candy to Mom or Dad, so they can take it to work and share it with their coworkers.

5) Let the child donate the unsafe candy to a local women’s shelter, food bank, homeless shelter, or family of an Iraqi soldier – the soldiers always seem to appreciate candy that they can share with friends or give to Iraqi children.

That’s it for my survival tips. I hope they help. Now, can someone help me get my decorations out of the box before Wednesday?

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