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Your Halloween May Vary

By Meri Schuhmacher

Guest Blogger

Posted:  10/18/2012 3:01 PM


I have a secret.  A secret not even my own children know.

I'm not a fan of Halloween.

There are many reasons for my hesitancy to embrace this holiday, the pinnacle being I have three children with type 1 diabetes.

Yet the fact remains, I am the mother to four Halloween loving boys.  There is no getting around it...I must embrace the holiday as if it were my own birthday.  Quelling their excitement is not an option.  In this case our family motto takes full effect: "You get what you get and you don't throw a fit."

I often get asked how I manage Halloween.  Parents of children with diabetes, especially the newbies, want to know the right way to handle it, as if I might have the elusive rule book sitting on my dining room table.

Alas...there are no rules.  Halloween, like everything else in conjunction with diabetes, is personal.  Each family has a different way to navigate it, and in this case, the right way for us might not be the right way for you.

What your Halloween will look like all depends on what your child needs.  Like an insulin sliding scale, we need to measure the sensitivity of our child and start from there.  From a parental standpoint, I've always held the belief we need to get away with what we can.  i.e. if your child forgets about the candy in three days...throw it away, donate it, or trade it in for a new car.  It doesn't matter, as long as it's gone.

Unfortunately, in our home...that isn't an option.  Getting away with anything these days hinges completely on negotiation. 

"If I let you eat 5 pieces of candy tonight, you need to give me 50."

"NO WAY!  I'll give you 20."


For many years my boys made a big deal about the candy, when in reality all they really cared about was the trick or treating itself.  Getting a big haul for a little boy is like a pirate discovering the city of gold.  "More is better," is part of their genetic makeup.  So these days we map out miles of time on the pavement, returning home with sacs that overfloweth. 

Separating the fast acting sugary candy has been a "Hail Mary" in our household.  For my boys, it is more fun to treat a low with skittles rather than glucose tabs.  The snack sized candies generally come in an uber convenient size, sporting around 15g of carb.  Separating those and putting them in a container for later use has decreased our stacks by a good 50%. 

Another major win in our household comes from negotiating the parties.  Let's face it, our kids go to almost 5 different Halloween/Harvest parties in a two week period.  A nightmare for any parent, not only those of us who have insulin dependent children.  Last year I cut out the Church Trunk or Treat, and a Harvest Fair.  Not only was the missing candy a win, but I was calmer on the actual Halloween day.  All the parties leading up to the big day only water down the anticipation and excitement that’s supposed to come from Halloween night itself. 

More than anything, being sensitive to our children's needs comes first and foremost.  Yes I have a secret distaste for the holiday, but I decorate anyway, because that is what Halloween is all about for my youngest.  I volunteer at school, because for my middle guy, eating the school candy buffet is an important boost towards the "normalcy" he yearns for.  I make chili and eagerly invite friends over, because the atmosphere is what's most important to my older boys. 

I don't want you to think I'm the perfect mom...I'm far from it.  I've made my mistakes, though I try hard to learn from them.  For example, one year I surprised the boys with a Price is Right spectacular after they returned with their candy. 

"If you give me 20 pieces of candy, you can have this itunes gift card!"

I thought it was brilliant.  Unfortunately, my boys held onto their candy like it was a wayward child returned home.  They didn't give up one piece, and I was stuck with small toys, gift cards, and Pokemon cards I really didn't need.  It was a good lesson for me...being upfront with our kids is better.

Instead of worrying about Halloween and the logistics of it all, we should sit down with our kids and map out and negotiate the ground rules.  It will relax us a bit, and help us find joy in the holiday as well.

More than anything, our children want us to delight in the Halloween experience alongside them.  In my case I have to fake it till I make it...which works for me, because eventually I always end up enjoying myself too.

Your Halloween may vary.  Enjoy it while you can!


Chris Wingenroth

Posted on Thu Oct 18 16:25:16 GMT 2012

Hi, I became diabetic in the late 70's at the age of 5 when carb counting and sliding scale insulin dosages were unheard of. However, in this day and age, when I know my carb ratio is 1 unit to 10 carbs, I can eat unlimited amounts of candy as long as I know and keep track of the carb count and keep my blood sugar within a perfectly normal range. I don't understand why, under these circumstances, Halloween should be that stressful for the parent of a diabetic child. As a parent to two non-diabetic children, I want to throw the candy out too (there is sooooo much), but just wondering why carb counting and some careful tracking can't be used to let your kids go crazy with the candy. And yes, I know candy isn't good for anyone :)


Posted on Thu Oct 18 16:48:06 GMT 2012

I love your article. Thank you! I also have 4 has Type 1. We have always had the 'sugar witch' arrive at our house the following night after Halloween. This allows time time to count, play with and negotiate with their brothers about the candy. They get to keep 10 pieces, we sort out the fast acting sugar like u do, and then the rest goes on the porch for the sugar witch. The sugar witch leaves toys or halloween pj's hanging from the trees or a few pieces of candy, stickers...etc. I think its a fair trade ;)


Posted on Thu Oct 18 17:18:08 GMT 2012

Chris, thank you for your comment! YES! Most children can eat Halloween Candy as long as they bolus appropriately. For my boys, skittles skyrocket their blood sugars, while chocolate is usually tolerable. My 10 year old, unfortunately, is very sensitive to large amounts of sugar. He is very tricky to bolus, while my other two are quite straight forward. My heart also goes out the newly diagnosed children still in their honeymoon. How much insulin will do the job? Will tonight be the night their pancreas will decide to pitch in some insulin too? And with the families that also have the celiac diagnosis, I can't even imagine! As with Halloween, your diabetes may vary. For families that avoid candy during the year, the newness of it all can be stressful. For me, Halloween and I were not BFF's long before my children were diagnosed...but we dive in anyway, and it always works out in the end!

Tanya: Oh how I wish I could get away with that!

Chris Wingenroth

Posted on Thu Oct 18 17:28:12 GMT 2012

Fully appreciate the fact that I might not take the same risks with my kids or anyone else, for that matter, that I do with myself! As an adult, however, I take great glee and satisfaction in knowing that I can eat 100 carbs of unforecasted junk and end up with a BSL of 111! It's the little things!

Angie Major

Posted on Thu Oct 18 17:34:35 GMT 2012

Great post! I have three kids, two with Type 1, and we are presently in Halloween negotiations at our house as well. So far it's cold hard cash that's the most attractive to my kids. I'm leaning towards two days of unrestricted candy binge madness, sorting out the useful 15-gm candies (super suggestion!), then a pay-by-the-pound candy cashout.

To the poster above who asked "Why not?" it's because candy, like juice, syrups, glucose tabs, etc, is a super fast acting (as I'm sure you know) glucose source that will outpace any type of insulin absorption curve, making for chronically cranky hyperglycemic kids. Also, my kids sneak and stash Halloween candy in ways that they don't necessarily do otherwise, wreaking havoc on their blood sugars and my peace of mind. Its just more than I can take for more than a few days.

Susan Ivester

Posted on Thu Oct 18 18:43:35 GMT 2012

My daughter is like your sons. She really just loves the dressing ip and Trick or Treating. She hardly ever eats much of the candy. Same thing for Christmas stockings and Easter baskets. We do use many of the snacks for lows too. Our Endo's office always gives out a sheet with most of the carb counts for the fun size and snack size treats. My daughter helps me sort them by carb count, and we look up the ones we don't know. My daughter is also affected by Skittles and oddly enough, Dum Dum suckers( well, most suckers) Happy Halloween to your family, and thanks for the info!!

Megan Graves

Posted on Thu Oct 18 19:33:06 GMT 2012

I also have four children, one with type 1. She loves hoodies so for the past few years I have bought a new hoodie before Halloween and when she gets back with her stash we trade. I guess I am lucky, she thinks it's great! She is very responsible for being only 12 and doesn't mind at all. She hates when her numbers are not where they should be. I am very thankful, she is awsome!


Posted on Sat Oct 20 22:40:02 GMT 2012

A coworker has a child who is allergic to corn so all candy is out. She was asking me what parents with diabetic children do for Halloween. I know about the pay per pound idea, I am going to share your other ideas. I personal give out pencils and pretzels at my house. I am a school teacher and I dislike Nov. 1 to Nov 5 being my students are bring in candy eat it in my classroom and give it out to their friends. I am the same teacher who has the goldfish, pretzels and pencils as prizes. I started this before I was a diabetic.


Posted on Fri Nov 02 23:10:39 GMT 2012

I have three little ones the oldest being six who loves Halloween. Our whole town shuts down for the night and all the businesses give out candy. Its a big deal so I would feel bad depriving them of their fun, I loved Halloween as a young kid. None of my children have diabetes or any illnesses but I'm a lot more concerned about health and sweets than my parents were. I feel guilty letting them eat that junk. I told my friends next year I'm throwing a halloween party with no candy except maybe an organic sucker each. Ill decorate, try to bring back the old party tricks such as bobbing for apples. Luckily I have a year to work out the kinks and plan what I hope to be a successful redirection from trick or treating.

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