When Parent Guilt, Halloween & Kindness to the Planet All Collide: Podcast

child behaviour choices parenting challenges podcast stress Oct 14, 2022

Listen to the episode HERE


When Parent Guilt, Halloween &  Kindness to the Planet All Collides - Episode Notes

Note: The transcript below may not be exactly the same as the podcast.

Today I’m going to share something a little more personal… something that affects us all… and typically something that doesn’t always have ready made solutions because some things you just have to sit with the discomfort of.

I was recently on an IG live talking about parent guilt and how my upcoming bootcamp supports parents with this. In my work I support parents with understanding development, how behaviour works, how unintentional reinforcement is making your life harder….  all those kinds of things

At the end of the day what I do is help you put your child to bed knowing you’re a good parent because you’ve learned how to develop intentional connection, you understand what your child’s behaviour means and you’ve done some work to support validating feelings in a way that isn’t getting you stuck in tricky moments. In other words, I help you address some of your parent guilt.

The thing is, I’m a parent too and sometimes I wonder if my parent guilt looks a little different than others… maybe it doesn’t. Send me a dm after you’ve listened and let me know.

My biggest parent guilt is around raising my children differently especially when it comes to things like festive holidays. 

Part of me loves them and the other part can’t handle the consumerism, the capitalism, the colonialism… all the isms.

You know the single biggest thing my children have been bullied for? The food they eat. We don’t eat many packaged foods or go to fast food restaurants. There’s a lot of reasons for this and I do think it really does reflect our parenting philosophy.  

One of the reasons is that we chose to introduce things to our children when we knew they can handle the outcomes of those choices. What do I mean by that. 

If you fill up on sugar and have too much energy and can’t sleep or feel terrible… I wanted them to be old enough to understand this connection versus putting them in a position where they couldn’t understand, would make poor choices and feel crappy. 

Developmentally I know the brain science here so I know that impulse control, weighing ones options, limiting things and so on isn’t something young children can do… it’s not something most kids can do until well into their teens. You have to introduce these things slowly and build up.  For us not introducing things at a young age was a priority.

Now I need to say something really really important here. Parenting is such a judgemental space…. I had a really amazing conversation with someone I deeply respect about this once because there are days I struggle to find the right words to say what I mean… my goal is not to shame people. This is really really hard in the line of work that I do because people hear feedback and take it the way they are ready to hear it and sometimes that means they take things as judgement. 

Now this is completely separate than the intentional shaming posts on social media geared specifically towards triggering your parent guilt, and if you haven’t listened to episode 3 of my podcast, I encourage you to because I talk about this in that episode.

So this person I was speaking to said something poignant. 

Encouraging critical self-reflection is not judgement or shaming, it’s getting people to think about their choices, actions and so on. This was a bit of an aha moment for me, because this is exactly my goal. My goal is not to make your feel judged or shamed, it’s to get you to critically reflect on some of the things you do.

Now, here’s another really important point. Just because I choose to do these things does not mean I judge you or others for making different decisions. Here lies one the biggest downfalls in Modern Parenting. Implied judgement. The assumption that because I’m making certain choices I am projecting those on to you. 

I’m not, in most cases I don’t have time for that and you know what… I get why people make different food choices than I do. We have different lifestyles, priorities etc. This is why I am able to support people with different parenting styles and family situations. I will take into account your perspective, your lifestyle, your time and make recommendations that will support your family goals. 

And yes, some people do judge you for your choices… and that’s their problem not yours. If you truly believe in your choices, you can do this.

Which brings me back to where I started in this conversation. Where is the line between standing up for what you believe in as a parent and finding it really hard to support your children with those decisions. I do what I do because I honestly believe that I may not be able to change the past, but I’m determined to change the future.

Part of that means I have hard conversations with myself and my children, and it’s not easy.

In the first year of the pandemic I wrote a blog about Halloween. I need to dig that up. It’s one of the blogs that never got reposted when I migrated my website to a new host a few months ago. Anyhow I bring this up because it might be the single best example of where I struggle as a parent.

If you caught my last episode you know I shared about my signature framework, the Language of Kindness. And one of the things I noted is how the pillar, Kindness to the Planet, is a really helpful tool for supporting parents with making decisions that take into account the impact of consumerism and materialism. 

There are tons of examples where this particular pillar has made navigating parenting really really difficult because it often lends itself to us making decisions that are not necessarily age appropriate, but rather driven by availability or by ‘everyone is doing it’ mentality. That last piece is a particularly hard one.

So we all know Halloween is an ecological nightmare, but it’s also the thing that I ruminate on most of the fall as a parent who is intentionally carving a new path, but doesn’t want my children to be so different they aren’t accepted. Yes I want them to be awesome and unique and that means being different, but how different? That’s the real question.

Funny part, I actually love the concept of Halloween. Getting dressed up, having a good time with friends, enjoying some treats… but this isn’t what it’s become. 

It’s become another extension of fast fashion with incredible amounts of food waste, a serious amount of greed and essentially the embodiment of everything I don’t believe in because it’s teaching children the wrong types of values and causing serious harm in the process.

Essentially it has become a night to get dressed up, collect as many treats as possible, to the point where many families have put in place a ’switch witch’ to remove the uncomfortable excess from their homes.

Then there is the added layer of affordability. Halloween has become quite expensive. Whether it’s the treats you supply, the costumes you buy or the decorations you purchase…

But here’s my real question. Why do we need this much stuff? Why are we encouraging this much excess? Is this really fun?

This is aside from the literal wrapper waste that I have lost sleep over. I’m not so super eco conscious that I’m not guilty of buying disposable things or participating in fast fashion… but I do think there are things happening, like the modern take on Halloween, that are creating mindsets and setting up a generation of children with values a lot of people don’t actually support, and when we pause to think about it more deeply, we realize it’s problematic.

So here’s my parent guilt. I don’t want to be the parent who is a party pooper. I don’t want my kids to be teased because I didn’t let them eat Oreos when they were younger or because they can’t go trick or treating to fill a bag with things they don’t eat. 

At the same time I want them to understand that things like this are causing real problems for our world. That the planet is not okay, that collecting a bag full of candy isn’t a sign of greatness, that there are ways to make Halloween really really fun without doing all these things. 

It’s hard. It’s hard to tread your own path. And sometimes it’s really really lonely.

And here’s the wild part, I actually know I’m not alone because I know this holiday stresses a lot of parents out for so many reasons. Affordability, waste, sugar overload… but group mentality is a quite a powerful thing. 

What if more of us were to stop and revisit why we are doing things? What if this podcast helps you connect with someone else who has been having the same doubts and questions? 

One of the goals of my podcast is to always share something actionable with you. To leave you with some kind of takeaway. So here’s how I handle Halloween and maybe it will spark an idea for you too. 

1. Costumes must be reusable and wearable or made from up-cycled materials. 

This has actually been really quite amazing. Over the years my kids have been super creative because of this. Or we have purchased clothing items that have lasted a year and beyond. 

2. Decorations must be bio-degradable or reusable (truth be told I have a lot of decorations from my years as a school teacher so there has been no buying of non-perishable things since I’ve had children). 

3. So here’s the harder one. We have not historically gone trick or treating because the one time we did the guilt of the excess overwhelmed me. Instead we have planned a movie night, given out pencils, mini-books and other usable treats. Pre-pandemic, every year we would have a halloween themed pizza party with friends for dinner. The year of the pandemic we were suppose to be hosting a costume party so we could celebrate and share costumes with friends, the part we miss when we don’t trick or treat.

4. Not surprising, we aim to eat treats that don’t come in wrappers. As the kids have gotten older, this one has been harder to navigate. Mostly because they got teased so much about not having them and we have reached a stage where they can make a really solid connection between what goes in their body and the impacts it has. I still won’t buy an entire bag of Halloween candy, it’s not something I’ll ever do. Also to be clear, my kids have always had treats, they just didn’t have the ones that came in wrappers.

Now for some hard truths.

Does this decision sit well with my kids. Not really, not in its entirety. But here’s the thing. Not all my decisions are meant to be accepted now, some of my decisions are the kind they will look back in the future and say… oh I get it, now I fully understand why. But, these guidelines allow them to participate in their school parades, partake in some festivities and also teach them that excess isn’t a value to look up to. Does it make my parent guilt go away, obviously not, I’m sharing it here with you today, but it does make it more manageable because I’m trying to strike a balance. At the end of the day, isn’t this what really matters?