Ironically, when James was first diagnosed, we frequently fielded the question, “Did you feed him a lot of sugar? Is that why he has diabetes?” This question is funny on so many levels. First, there’s the whole, “I can’t believe someone just asked me that” aspect. Don’t you just love obnoxious questions? Second, as all parents of kids with type 1 diabetes know, it has nothing to do with overeating, obesity, or consuming sugar! Finally, when my kid was diagnosed with diabetes, he didn’t really even know what sugar was.
See, James is our first child, and with only one child, sugar is pretty easy to avoid for a fair amount of time. If you never buy it and never give it to him, he won’t eat it! Imagine that! Instead, our problem at diagnosis was finding something to give him to treat lows that he would accept. Even 100-percent juice was something we used to avoid, and it took a fair amount of time for him to come to drink it without a struggle!
So our very first Halloween diagnosed with diabetes wasn’t challenging at all. The big fun and adventure was wearing a cute costume, walking between houses, and talking to our nice neighbors! Lucky for us, this continued for a while. Then inevitably, he figured out how cool candy could really be!
We struggled that first tempting year with what to do about candy. Like it or not, Halloween is a candy holiday, and candy can be tricky for kids with type 1 diabetes. If James had been born a few decades ago, this wouldn’t even be a conversation — candy would have been strictly prohibited. Since the advent of carb counting and advances in diabetes care, kids with type 1 diabetes can eat pretty much like their friends. But that doesn’t change the fact that administering insulin to cover candy is hard and that candy doesn’t have many (or any?) redeemable qualities as a food source!
Upon discovering the goodness of candy, James could not be dissuaded. We offered a trade — candy loot for a few new hot toys. He liked his new toys, but he still felt like he missed out on his candy, and it made him sad. And it cost a lot, too.
So the next year we finally happened upon our winning strategy! While Kim was a “hoarder” growing up, I was perhaps more of a “binger,” preferring one night of candy-eating magnificence. And this technique has served us well. Now on Halloween, James gets to eat his candy, and I don’t do much to interfere. I watch very closely and use the packaging, the scale, and the internet to calculate carbs to my very best ability, while he eats his “fill.” Yes, I let him eat without moderating on that one night a year. It doesn’t always lead to perfect numbers, but I prepare for corrections in advance of that evening and know that for our family, it’s just part of our planning and preparing for the holidays! Of course, this is just what works for us, and when it comes to candy, everyone needs to work with their own healthcare provider and monitor blood sugar levels closely.
Generally, James still wants to eat candy for a few days after Halloween, but he always loses interest eventually. And after that first big “binge,” we limit him to eating one piece per day.
While some days, I sincerely wish I could wrap James in bubble wrap and never let anything — no hard feelings, no dangers, no broken bones (and no candy!) — affect him, I know it’s in the tiny, strategic compromises that we win the battle to let our kids be kids!
Disclaimer: The experiences and suggestions recounted in these articles are not intended as medical advice, and they are not necessarily the “typical” experiences of families with a child who has type 1 diabetes. These situations are unique to the families depicted. Families should check with their healthcare professionals regarding the treatment of type 1 diabetes and the frequency of blood glucose monitoring. Jen and Kim are real moms of kids with type 1 diabetes and have been compensated for their contributions to this site.