With Halloween right around the corner I’m sure many food allergy moms anxiety levels are on the rise. Kids are excited; moms are tense. Kids talk about costume ideas; moms fret about attending parties. Kids talk about how much candy they’re going to get; moms plot ways to filter out the unsafe stuff discreetly. Halloween doesn’t have to be filled with anxiety and fear for parents, and it certainly doesn’t have to be filled with feelings of being different or excluded for allergy kids. Follow these 7 simple tips for a stress free, fun filled holiday.
1. Plan Ahead:
Set Clear Rules and Practice them in action. Teach kids to read labels. Enforce a “NO EAT” rule. In our house my kids have been taught to NEVER eat anything given to them whether at school, an event, by a family member or at friend’s house by anyone….ever! If it is not given to them by mom or dad they are not allowed to eat it….Period! Because ingredients are always changing and people without food allergies are not trained to read product labels there is just too much room for error, and all it takes is just one mistake for something life threatening to happen. So For Halloween, in our house, my kids trick or treat and then we bring home all our loot and dump it and sort it out for what is safe and what is not. We will talk more about this later.
2. The Dreaded Classroom party:
Get hands-on with the event and volunteer to be the room mom. Not only does this ensure that you always have your child’s teachers full attention when planning parties, but it guarantees that you have some control (even if it’s not total control) over the party snacks being served. Do it….it’s not that scary! It’s actually quite fun when you get involved and your kids will thank you for it someday. You get to help plan every classroom party, know all food being served before each event and have the ability to keep parents reminded and informed about the classroom allergy policies.
Ok so it’s already October and a room mom has been selected already, or maybe you’re just a busy mom with no wiggle room in your schedule to take on such a time consuming task. Either way it’s ok….don’t worry there is still hope. Get to know the assigned room mom. Be honest and blunt about your fears and concerns and offer to help. She is a mom she will understand. Tell her you would love to provide the party snack as a donation to the class. She’ll probably be happy to have the burden off her shoulders and feel more comfortable with you doing it anyways. If you’re looking for some great safe snack options check out this list provided by Snack Safely. Here you will find a list of all approved allergen snacks for 2016.
3. Spread Allergy Awareness:
Learn to embrace what you have been given to deal with. Yes allergies suck and make life challenging but don’t let your kids know that. Tell them they are special to be different. The sooner you model that attitude and behavior to your little ones the sooner they will be at accepting it themselves. Start a new tradition with your family and become a part of The Teal Pumpkin Project. The Teal Pumpkin project is a worldwide movement to create a safer and happier Halloween for all trick or treaters by providing non-food treats such as glow sticks or small toys as an alternative to candy or treats. Each family that participates in this project paints a pumpkin Teal and displays it on their porch for trick or treaters to see. Houses with teal pumpkins on display mean your child will be given a non-food item. My family celebrates and participates in this project and it has become a tradition. When we sit down to carve our pumpkins as a family my kids enjoy paining one of our pumpkins teal and talking about what it represents. I encourage you to get involved and help spread awareness.
4. Host the Neighborhood Halloween Party:
No one says Halloween has to be just for kids! Offer to host a neighborhood Halloween party and make it a tradition. Each year I host the annual Halloween party for my neighborhood group of kids and parents. We have appetizers and quick kid friendly finger foods as the kids all get their costumes on and get ready to head out. We head out for trick or treating in our local neighborhood as a group and then meet back up at our house when everyone’s pooped out and their bags can’t hold anymore candy. Kids get to hang out together and parents get to socialize ….it’s a win-win for all!
5. Trick or Treating:
It’s time to head out for trick or treating. Most importantly remember to bring your medications with you if you have a pack that goes everywhere your kid does. We have a case by Allermates that holds two epi-pens, an asthma inhaler, our emergency medical action plan and some single packs of Benadryl. If you have meds that follow your kids around now is not the time to forget to bring them along. Put the pack inside your child’s trick or treat bag ahead of time (if they are old enough to self-carry), or stash it in your purse a few hours before heading out so you don’t forget to grab it during all the chaos and excitement of getting dressed and leaving the house.
Another great thing to do is to put together a safe treat bag to bring along while you’re trick or treating. Put some safe candy or treats in a small Ziploc bag earlier in the day so it’s ready to go when you head out. Forget about trying to read candy labels in the dark with a flashlight or glow bracelet held up to it as your only source of light. When your kid wants a snack along the way because they see their friends ripping apart goodies along the way just pull out their safe snack bag already stuffed with candy and treats ready to go.
Ok, so now what do you do with all that candy? Your kids have come home and dumped their heaping pillow cases of candy on the floor in a pile for you to sort through. We make 3 piles. A pile of safe candy in a “keep pile” that I allow my kids to keep and eat (in moderation of course). The second pile is the “trash it” pile. Candy without labels such as homemade cookies or treats goes in here. Sorry to the mom that spent two weeks putting together really cute homemade treats they saw on Pinterest. No matter how cute or creative they are we toss them into the “trash it” pile”
Finally, the third pile is the unsafe candy that contains our allergens and can’t be eaten. This pile we call our “Switch Witch” pile. Every year the switch witch comes when the kids are sleeping (think tooth fairy here)…and takes the pile of candy left. In exchange she leaves a small non-food item or goodie behind as a thank you. Usually the “Switch Witch” leaves a book or two behind for my kiddos. If you’re opposed to the switch witch idea you could always donate the extra candy to a good cause. Use that extra candy as a teachable moment to show your kids that this world is a bigger place than just them. Soldier’s Angels offers a program called Treats for Troops each year. They will take your extra unwanted Halloween Candy and send it to deployed troops overseas. What a great idea for a great cause!
So stop stressing about Halloween and start enjoying it with your kids. After all…… they grow up so fast and they’re only small once (at least that’s what every single grandparent tells me)!