Halloween can be frightful for any parent, but for the moms and dads of kids with food allergies, it’s a little scarier because trick-or-treating has the potential to be downright dangerous.
As a parent of kids who have several food allergies, I know that I have plenty of options on Halloween. Reflecting on my children’s allergies during this season, I was reminded of the mom whose Halloween sign went viral on Reddit last year and how she stated that responsible parenting means that other people have to — no, are required to — hand out allergen-free treats to trick-or-treaters.
Check it out:
Look. I get it. Halloween has been terrifying to me since my second child was diagnosed with a peanut allergy 12 years ago, when he was only 4 years old. Each Halloween since, his dad and I have combed through his candy stash and taken out the things we knew he couldn’t have, as well as all of the infuriating candy that isn’t individually labeled clearly (so we weren’t sure if it was safe for him to eat or not).
We have repeated this with both his younger sisters — one has celiac disease and the other is also allergic to peanuts. It’s not fun, but it’s what you have to do if your child just can’t go around eating whatever candy they get.
And yes, I strongly feel that people over-complain about kids and food allergies, especially when it comes to kids in a school setting where they’re not in the presence of their parents — and where they can more easily become exposed to something that can kill them. It makes me sad to hear callous remarks about helicoptering parents whose kids can literally drop dead if they eat peanut butter by mistake.
However! Halloween is a hell of a time to expect your entire neighborhood to cater to your kid’s dietary needs. It really is. And the overbearing tone of this missive is where the bulk of the problem lies. This parent demands that you hand out carrot sticks, Smarties, Necco wafers and raisins, because that is responsible parenting. If she had made a sign politely requesting that homes have those types of treats available, it wouldn’t have come across as quite so pretentious and jerk-ish. But she didn’t, and now we’re talking about how awful her sign is a whole year later.
There are so many other solutions a parent can employ if their child is allergic to certain types of Halloween candy. For starters, pound it into their heads that they cannot eat anything while they’re trick-or-treating. This is common sense and applies to all kids, not just ones with food allergies. This is good parenting.
Then, when they get home, sit with them and sort the candy out, and if possible, they may be able to trade with a sibling. This way, they may find more options that they can have. Or you can have some candy of your own on hand to trade with your kid. You can have them set out their rejected treats for a Switch Witch-type exchange, where they’ll find a toy or other non-candy option in the morning.
Yes, it’s amazing and wonderful if neighbors have allergy-friendly treats (or non-food items) to hand out on Halloween. In fact, I encourage it. But I would never demand it. I know that dealing with food allergies is a pain in the ass. We, as a family, live it. And yes, Halloween can kind of suck for that reason. But there is no way that posting a sign like this will do anything more than make your neighbors think you’re a ding-dong.
Originally published Oct. 2015. Updated Oct. 2016.