By Christina Katz

Blisters abound, sugar levels soar, dehydration ensues, and next thing you know, what started as a fun, festive night feels more like a ghoulish nightmare.
Parents, before you turn into a witch or a warlock, remember that the key to enjoying Halloween is as simple as rallying the troops in advance, going over your expectations, and getting prepared for anything that might go amiss. Here are some tips from a mom who has literally been around the block a few times:

Split into age groups

Have one parent take one age group and the other parent take the other age group. Tweens like to run in packs and they move fast, so wear sneakers if you plan on keeping up with them. Toddlers and preschoolers may dawdle or tire quickly, so choose the more patient parent to accompany them. Or consider taking two shifts: one earlier in the evening for younger kids and another later in the evening for older kids.

Eat a high-protein dinner

‘Tis the season for over-indulging in sugar, which means it’s more important than any other time of year to emphasize three healthy high-protein meals a day. Be sure to give your kids limits on how much sugar they may consume between meals.

Practice their refrains

Commit to making the night pleasant for all. “Trick-or-treat!” and “Thank you!” are the only things young children need to be able to say their first couple of years out. But, encourage older children to be more cordial, especially to the older folks in the neighborhood who will likely opt out altogether if they are offended by enough poorly behaved kids. How about making a chorus of “Happy Halloween!” or “Have a great night!” mandatory before the kids run off to the next house?

Be prepared

Plastic and paper bags for treats are out. They are the most likely to rip or tear. Pillowcases are better, but these too may split open when stuffed. So whatever you do, don’t let the kids use your good set. Whatever they carry, stuff a few extra bags in your backpack in case you need replacements. Also carry band-aids for blisters, water for hydration, and cash on hand in case you come across a food cart selling something you might enjoy. And, of course, don’t forget the camera!

Aim for the middle

If you are driving to another neighborhood to walk with a friend or friends, consider parking your vehicle in the middle of the neighborhood instead of on the edge or back at the friend’s house. This way, if you need to make an early exit for any reason, you’ll be that much closer to your car. When going out with very young children, consider bringing along a stroller or wagon.

Use social sense

No one likes to feel left out, so encourage your kids to invite new or shy kids who might not already be part of a group to join you. Or, if you know that you will all have a better time if it’s just you and your kids, don’t feel bad about breaking off from a group.

Halloween is a great opportunity to teach kids about doing what works best for your family rather than always going along with the crowd. On the other hand, if there is a crowd you need to keep up with, now you will be ready. Happy Halloween!

Christina Katz’ favorite Halloween costume was the Tin Man from the Wizard of Oz. She is proud to share that she made the costume herself. Her latest book is The Art of Making Time for Yourself, A Collection of Advice for Moms.