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Friday, November 2, 2012

A colorful Halloween

Halloween has been and gone and now we’re left with the result: bags of chips, chocolates and lots of brightly coloured candy.

Oh, the joys of the season, what starts with October’s yellow and orange coating and ends in Christmas red and green striped candy canes. It’s lovely to see our children’s eyes light up in the wonder and excitement of it all, but here in North America, we often don’t know the challenges we pose for them in the process.
Over in Europe, food colourings, especially yellow tartrazine is mostly banned. After finding out that colourings trigger hyperactivity in children and ADHD behaviour symptoms, the government decided to pull most of them from the shelves. One of the joys our children have in the UK is being able to have sprinkles on cakes or a pack of Smarties without worrying about their effect on how they feel or act. But denying trick or treating while back home (no matter how strange of tradition it is when you really look at it) or throwing out their treats when they finish means denying our children a cultural experience, one that they will look back on fondly, and resent us if they skip out on.

We discovered our daughter’s sensitivity to tartrazine by trial and error. She’d be handed a sucker at a store and for the rest of the day be on an emotional roller coaster. If she was having fun, it was never connected fun, it was hysterical and fully charged, if something upset her it was traumatic, no matter how small of thing that triggered it. She talked faster and couldn’t focus and until we traced it, it was simply scary. Her in Canada, yellow food dye is used in cheddar cheese, processed dinners, and even butter sometimes, so it wasn’t simply a case of no candy it was suddenly checking everything.

So here I am talking about food colourings and Sensitivities and the question has to be asked: Why? Why here on a blog that talks about being spiritually aware? Why when I usually promote the mind being the builder and thoughts creating reality?
Because of Awareness. Because, when I don’t drink water I tend to feel cranky and sure, I can change my thoughts and refocus to the positive to feel better, but another short cut is to get a drink. Because children all over the world have eaten colourings today and are probably acting a little extreme, we often blame sugar but this is a different high, its emotional extremes and in being aware we can help them be aware and empower them to make smart choices. Choices like that, effect a lifetime.

When our daughters were little, and with our son now that he is taking part more, we talked a lot about colourings once we knew the effect. We’d tell them to choose a red candy if people offered them as the yellow and green effected how they felt and acted, and often would lead them to be so out of control they’d fall or hurt themselves. We told them why we bought white cheddar and not the yellow one which they liked better. We told them why no kool-aid and why when they went to an event that served coloured treats they felt different, less like themselves. We even let them have them sometimes, reminding them to watch themselves so they knew what it felt like. We, as a family started gauging when it worked, when it didn’t and why, and tracing what color had been eaten if they suddenly felt unbalanced, but didn’t know why.

This Halloween I went through our son’s bag after he’d been trick or treating and edited out the high yellow and orange content. I let him have a pink lolly pop and a few m &m’s which he could eat after a healthy lunch. Since Wednesday him and I’ve done a lot of talking about colours and how it makes a person feel fast inside, and why he has to eat more green veg to balance out. He’s three, but he likes to learn about stuff, and he needs to understand why we say no when we do. He’s handled it really well. But for the first time I gave our daughters free rein on their treasure trove of treats. I told them if they wanted the coloured stuff, to have it. I wouldn’t say yes until after lunch or too close to bed, but if they wanted it, they could have it. They knew the effect, they could choose. Halloween night had me in awe as they dumped most of their tartrazine filled treats, including cheesies and some bright yellow things. They said they didn’t want it and out they went. I was stunned and so very, very proud. I love to see my daughters making strong choices, not trying to please, but on their own accord.

The next day I was equally proud when after lunch they ate their chocolate and had a few sweets, but balanced it so not too many to throw them off. It was great.
Today, a few coloured candy were found at the bottom of the bag, and they proved too tempting. My daughters actually loved the feeling of the rush of food colourings as they said they were laughing for no reason, but soon a few things upset them and the roller coaster was in place. I felt it building up and things turned a little hairy. It wasn’t a big deal to ask if maybe reactions would be different if they hadn’t had colourings, and they admitted, probably. It was then followed by them saying they’d changed their minds, tomorrow, after lunch, chocolate would be on the menu.

I find it an interesting experience. For yes, it’s fun to lose control, but then there’s the downside and it’s offering a chance for our kids to witness both. In some ways it provides an interesting start to lessons in life. We as parents always have “talks” hovering over us, such as the big drugs and drinking one, and I find it an interesting premise to be able to ask if the rush is worth the downside. I leave it up to them to decide, but it’s made our children think and feel empowered to take it into their own hands. They know the feeling of something altering how they feel, and quite frankly, I’m pretty sure they don’t like it.

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