Last night I carved these bad boys 🎃🎃
It was no mean feat, they are huge!
My youngest Leo loves Halloween, his favourite celebration of the year, but it used to really freak me out.
All those sweets and chocolate, it got even harder as a parent.
But children learn best thorough modelling, not through the things we tell them to do.
If we allow our fear of sweets and sugar to take over, we run the risk of them developing a strained relationship with food.
Ok, we all know sweets are not the most nutritious food but they are food nonetheless and they have their place, especially at this time of year.
If we restrict it or moralise by saying we really should not be eating it …
Or that we will be “good” tomorrow to make up for it…
Or if we call it “bad” or “junk”…
Or show that "mummy/daddy can't eat that"...
… then we create shame and make our children feel like they are bad or naughty for wanting and eating it!
It is important not to let diet culture take the fun out of Halloween. By not demonising sweets, we show how they can be included in any diet in a healthful way. This will help our children to grow feeling happy, confident and able to trust their own bodies.
Our relationship with food is not so much about what we eat, it is how we approach food and nutrition.
Here are some of the things I do with my children at Halloween to help take the stress out of it and make it as enjoyable as possible, for them as well as me!
1. Stay calm and relaxed
I always make sure that I am feeling as relaxed as possible. I would be lying if I said that I never get anxious when it comes to modelling a healthy relationship with food for my boys. I spent years consumed by disordered eating. So I try to be as honest as possible with myself so that I can deal with any old conditioning and not transfer the energy on. Children WILL pick up on things even if we don't think we are showing our fear. It is also super important not to judge - ourselves, our children, anyone! Talk about your favourite sweet or chocolate and make sure they know that you don't ever have to earn it.
2. Get involved!!!
I love the lead up to Halloween - carving pumpkins, decorating the house and prepping goulish food. My sons love helping me make chilli and spooky beans. We watch films in the build up and go out looking at other peoples decorations weeks before. I also throw a little party and join in the dressing up, Halloween is soooo much more than sweets and chocolate.
3. Maintain structure
On the big day, make sure that you are providing your child's usual meals and snacks. Don't subconsciously hold back to make room for the fun food! Show them how it can and should fit in as part of a healthy relationship with food. If we restrict or hold back a mean, we give the message that sweets need to be compensated for.
Then, when they have gathered all their Halloween sweets, let them eat as much as they want. And do so without a sprinkling of guilt i.e. eat what you want but don't make yourself sick! Just give them permission and let them get on with it, this is the only way they will learn their limits in a safe and trusting way.
And let them do the same the next day! Then I always make sweets a part of our usual routine which means they are not off limits but equally, there is not free reign!
Just remember, our children are only this young once! Embrace all the fun you can without letting your own food demons take over.
Right, I am off now to get in to my Halloween outfit and get this party started!