November 1, 2012

Melissa Arca:Some ideas for the candy conundrum

OK, so how many of you are enjoying a fun-size Snickers with your coffee? C'mon, I know you dip into your child's candy stash just like I do.

OK, so how many of you are enjoying a fun-size Snickers with your coffee? C'mon, I know you dip into your child's candy stash just like I do.

Speaking of candy, the day after Halloween is all about the candy, isn't it? The costumes are now in a heap on your child's closet floor, their hair still spray-painted green or hot pink, and their little faces still bear remnants of that white ghost paint.

When it comes down to it, it was really all for the reward of candy. More candy than they'll see all year long. A pile that they probably counted, traded and ate too much of in their post trick-or-treating haze.

So, now what are you going to do with it? Many parents confess to me that Halloween and all the candy that comes with it kind of stresses them out. They don't really want to be the candy police, but they feel they must. It's their job, after all, to make sure their kids eat healthy and don't increase their risk of cavities.

But what is the real risk? Is there harm in letting your kids have at it during Halloween?

My advice is fairly straightforward and simple. You don't need to be the candy police, but you do need to have a game plan. If you're unsure how to handle that ginormous pile of candy, here's what we do in my house:

Halloween night is sort of a free-for-all (within reason, anyway). I tell them they can have as much as they want but to be careful because too much can wind up hurting their stomachs.

That night, after they go to bed, I set aside enough candy for 2-3 small pieces per day for one week for each child. And some for me and my husband, too.

We donate the rest of it.

Last year, our kids gathered up their "to donate" stash and were able to receive a few extra dollars in return from a local dentist holding a candy buy-back program. That candy was then sent to U.S. troops. Many dentists are doing the same this year, so look for one in your area.

It's a plan I feel good about and it isn't a long, drawn-out process wherein I struggle daily trying to limit their intake. They get to bask in their bounty for a week, and then we're done. As for Halloween night and my laissez-faire attitude? Though some may not agree, I find more often than not, children are great at regulating themselves if we give them a little freedom to do so.

We of course, continue to emphasize and insist that they brush their teeth, drink plenty of water, and eat more green-light foods (like fruits and vegetables) than red-light ones (like candy).

Halloween is just one night and the candy (in our house anyway) is gone in a week. What's more important are the healthy limits and examples you set all year long.

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