The Survival Guide: How to Handle Purim-Infected Children
I think I remember loving Purim. But it could be that was all a dream. Because as far as my memory can stretch, Purim has been about handling my candy-intoxicated children and the house covered in candy wrappers. Can you relate or is it just me? And each year, I wonder, where did I go wrong?
So I close my eyes, and I imagine a Purim with shiny-faced children in spanking-clean costumes, munching angelically on carrot sticks, sitting calmly around the Purim table, smiling pleasantly as my husband tells a Purim joke.
Yeah, don’t worry, even my trance-like self recognizes the absurdity of this hallucination. My real goal is to embrace the day and just bring it from extremely insane to mildly insane.
How should we approach our candy-stuffed, over-tired, hyper-stimulated, food-smeared, bleary-eyed offspring, and turn the day from a kvetch-fest to a joy-fest?
I’ve asked some of my fellow females for their magic tricks, and here’s what I got.
- Breakfast Breakfast Breakfast: There’s a nice amount of time in the morning until the action starts. ‘I’m not sure if there’s any science behind this, but I think if our kids have some real food in their stomachs the candy will have less of an effect,’ says Esther, 31. ‘Either way, having a solid breakfast gets the day started the right way.’ We women need to seize every opportunity on this day, so get up early and whip up an all-star breakfast. Go with any of your best-sellers, or you can try oatmeal sprinkled with walnuts and pecans, and serve some bananas on the side, or hard-boiled eggs, toasted whole-grain bread, and maybe some blueberries in little shot glasses with a tiny fork (little trick to make them more exciting to eat) Whatever it is, get it into their little tummies.
- Stash the Cache: While this one may not work well for 3- or 4-year-olds, it really resonates with children a bit older. Give them a big, exciting bucket, or even better, a chest, and tell them this is where they will collect their treasures of the day. ‘It’s exciting for them to see their candy pile grow, so they’re less likely to devour it on the spot,’ Malky, 28, explains. ‘This also gives them a goal to work towards throughout the day. It gives them a structured mission, so to speak…’ You can take the pirate theme further and tell your kids to find a secret hiding spot for their chests, (just mention that the flower patch is off-limits…), and the day turns into a swashbuckling adventure.
- Poison Control: There’s junk and there’s JUNK. Plan out better nosh choices with your kids. Push the potato chips instead of the MSG-doused Bissli. Swap artificially dyed candy for chocolate bars. Push for the apple juice or an interesting tropical juice instead of those horrific fake-colorful drinks. Give your kids pre-filtered options for their mishloach manot. My kids usually think all ten mishloach manot that they made are actually for them to eat, so it’s nice to fill them with, let’s not say good, but at least less bad, choices.
- Take a Break: This one will take some pre-planning. Maybe pick up some projects, or any other craft or worksheet your children enjoy, and set everyone up in their rooms to take 20 minutes of downtime. It may be hard to interrupt all the fun, but when there’s a bit of a lull in the action, that’s your chance to swoop in with an exciting activity. Even though it may be a challenge to get everyone on board, they will be much more relaxed after taking a break from the chaos of the day. Even though there’s so much going on, the fact is there’s very little they’re actually doing. Taking a few minutes to put their energies towards a goal, i.e. doing a project, can be very regulating.
- Snack Packs: Oddly, most of us are ravenous on Purim because instead of eating meals we are just grazing on goodies. ‘Think of all your most successful healthy snack options and have a few dishes prepared,’ says Hadassah, 29. ‘I like to bring out a new snack every couple hours, something that the kids will be excited to try, and that way they’re filling up on substance.’ Although, it’s probably wrong to assume that if you take up tummy space with food there will be less room for candy. That logic doesn’t work here…
- Set Up Shop: This seems to be a popular solution to the nosh tornado—create your own prize store where the currency is candy. Your children can ‘visit’ your establishment, bringing wallets full of junk, and you can inflate prices as you will. So one pull-apart eraser can cost 4 chocolate bars, and so on. And then you are free to consume candy to your heart’s desire. It’s really quite clever when you think about it.
- Go With The Flow: Yeah, this one is all about us and not about them. ‘It’s ok to relinquish control. Let things go. Let’s not forget, it’s Purim,’ says Mrs. K, 54. ‘It’s one day a year.’ Relinquish control…wow, what an absolutely terrifying thought. Maybe I’ll try that one next year.
Does Sugar Make Kids Hyper?
“Sugar does not appear to affect behavior in children,” says Dr. Mark Wolraich, chief of Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics at Oklahoma University Health Sciences Center.
He explains how parents make the connection between candy and wild behavior because children are often surrounded by candy during dysregulating or overly-exciting circumstances, like birthday parties.
“[Parents’] ideas are reinforced by seeing it in those circumstances,” Dr. Wolraich explains.
So although there are a host of reasons not to give children too much candy, keeping them from bouncing off the walls is not one of them. It seems children will do that with or without a sugar fix. Shocking, no?