It’s that time of year again: the leaves are falling, the temperatures are dropping, and all things scary and spooky are on store shelves. While pumpkin picking and catching a hay ride are “low carbohydrate” activities, trick-or-treating can be anything but.
So, how do you handle Halloween with a young child with diabetes? Do you allow them to “be a kid” for an evening, and go all out on the chocolate and sugar spike? Or do you limit them to a few, portion-controlled treats, with a food scale nearby? While there’s no one right answer to this question, here are some helpful tips to make your Halloween a little less spooky this year.
Take the Focus Away from Food
This is helpful for all children, for all holidays. No holiday needs to be 100 percent about the food, especially for a child with diabetes. For Halloween specifically, focus on carving pumpkins, watching scary movies, dressing up in really elaborate Halloween costumes, and yes, if you and your child wish, some candy, too.
Noelle from California says, “Our kiddo is three so our main focus is on creating traditions that will be helpful for her later on with type 1. For parties, I create treats that aren’t food-related.”
Lila from New York City says, “We completely avoid the candy thing. Trick or treating isn’t a huge deal in our neighborhood, so this hasn’t been an issue yet.”
Kate, from Pennsylvania, says, “We go out a little, but limit the number of stops. After we get home, we go through our candy, keeping only what we really, really like. The rest, we give to the Switch Witch, and she brings the girls a little present in the morning as an exchange for giving her their candy.” There’s even a book you can buy that helps explain the magic of the Switch Witch.
Create Unique Traditions
Perhaps you have a spooky, scary dance party or movie night on Halloween, or the whole family dresses up in matching costumes to go walking around the neighborhood. Maybe you bob for apples or roast pumpkin seeds after carving, or let your child have a few friends sleepover. Creating unique family traditions that are inclusive will be beneficial not only for your child now, but will be helpful as they grow up with type 1 diabetes.
Restricting a child too much can backfire. Children with diabetes are much more likely to develop unhealthy relationships with food. Then again, you don’t want a blood sugar rollercoaster to ruin their night, either. If your kiddo is old enough, get on the same page with them about how much candy can be reasonably enjoyed without causing any problems.
Moderation is key. If your child really wants to indulge, just make sure they’re carbohydrate counting appropriately, and let them enjoy themselves, but be ready to help.
Melissa, from Iowa, says, “We bring any candy home and carb count it ahead of time, and then put a post-it note on each piece, so our daughter can dose appropriately whenever she’s hungry or wants a treat.”
Like all things diabetes-related, it helps to plan ahead. Make sure your child eats a good dinner with some protein and fat before going trick-or-treating. They’ll be less inclined to overeat, and the protein and fat could help to slow the absorption of the sugary candy.
Make sure you know where and how far they’ll be walking, or better yet, walk along with them. Have your child carry dedicated hypo snacks so they can deal with hypoglycemia properly (rather than just stuffing more candy into their faces). Make sure they’re drinking plenty of water.
Halloween is a great night to rely on a continuous glucose monitor (CGM), especially if your child is older and will be off with friends without your supervision. CGMs offer remote monitoring so you can watch his blood sugar from afar.
Hannah says, “Planning ahead a learning to navigate holidays with type 1 diabetes is critical and so empowering once you find what works for you and your family.”
Don’t Stress the Small Stuff!
It’s important to remember that Halloween is only one night, and you shouldn’t stress the small stuff. Some parents of children with diabetes shy away from candy, while others let them indulge, and there is no one right answer. Do what works for you and your family, but don’t let the stress of one holiday ruin the evening for you and your child. Relax and let them have fun! They’ll be doing so much running around anyway that you’ll be glad they had the extra “low snacks” on them anyway.
Lija, from Minnesota, says, “We don’t do anything different for my type 1 and non-type 1, and it works out fine. We find that she tends to go low while out trick or treating, so she just eats and boluses a little while out; it isn’t actually a difficult holiday for us!”
The key is finding what works for you. There are no right or wrong answers. Here’s to a happy, spooky Halloween! Hopefully, the candy (and subsequent blood sugars) are the least scary part.