Is the Easter bunny real? How to respond, according to a psychologist
You go out for Easter lunch with the family, trying to make sure all the kids are wearing shoes and socks. Then you’re hit with the dreaded question, “Dad, is the Easter Bunny real?”.
For many families, Easter traditions bring special magic to children and adults alike. Like Santa and the Tooth Fairy, the Easter Bunny represents pure innocence and childhood fun. With a dash of imagination and lots of beautifully wrapped chocolate, what could go wrong?
Well, unfortunately, the truth may be what’s wrong, what makes disappointed children cry.
Fortunately, there are ways to handle this situation gracefully and even use it as a learning opportunity.
Family traditions and Easter
Some families hold Easter egg hunts in the yard or park for children to find the eggs the Easter Bunny leaves behind. Some families create magic through shared games, gifts, and delicious food, without telling white lies about the Easter Bunny.
However, no matter what holiday traditions you follow in your family, children often hear about the Easter Bunny at school.
So even if you don’t welcome the Easter Bunny into your family, you may still be faced with the dreaded question.
Read more: The Easter Bunny Tale: Fun Fiction or Harmful Myth?
Part of a rich storytelling tradition
Storytelling has played an important role in our human history and evolution. When we tell stories to children, we teach them about social norms – the rules and expectations that society expects of all of us.
Santa Claus and the Tooth Fairy teach children about socially desirable behaviors – behave well and you will be rewarded. The Easter Bunny teaches children about celebration and appreciation by giving gifts.
Children are generally very good at separate the unreal from the real. Depending on the circumstances, it can even be as young as three years old.
The strength of children’s beliefs is directly related to the amount of supporting “evidence” they have experienced over the years.
Beliefs about cultural figures, such as the Easter Bunny and Santa Claus, are often stronger than beliefs about fictional TV or book characters (such as SpongeBob SquarePants or Frozen’s Elsa). This is because Easter and Christmas rituals are so prevalent and reinforced in Western society.
Children’s beliefs are often stronger in families where parents provide more details about the story or the ritual, or if the parents will an extra effort to provide evidence by putting carrots for the Easter bunny, or milk and cookies for Santa Claus.
Read more: Why do we tell stories? Hunter-gatherers shed light on the evolutionary roots of fiction
It’s time to celebrate
There is some loss for the children in discovering the truth, but there is also a gain.
The process by which children discover the truth can be a very important element learning experience for your child. Asking questions (about the Easter Bunny or other sensitive topics) develops critical thinking, important milestones in child development.
As awkward as you may feel, such critical thinking should be celebrated and supported.
So what should I say?
You’ll be relieved to know that you can answer the question, “Is the Easter Bunny real?” without ruining the magic and ritual of Easter.
If your child is wondering and not sure
To accompany your child, you can relax, listen attentively and let yourself be guided by your child. Try to answer the questions simply and directly. But remember, you don’t have to give the answer right away.
You might say, “Hmm, can you tell me why you think the Easter Bunny might not be real?”
When children learn that their parents will always listen to them, take them seriously, and answer their questions as best they can, it will strengthen their bond by building trust.
If your child has heard other children asking
Some kids may ask about the Easter Bunny because they’ve heard other kids ask the question, but be clear in other ways they still want to believe.
You might say, “Even though other kids ask about it, does it seem like you still believe in the Easter Bunny?” Should we see what will happen this year? “.
If your child is sad about the truth
For most children, discovering the truth is a positive experience. But some may feel really sad and upset when they find out. For these children, it will be helpful for parents to acknowledge and validate their feelings.
You might say, “I know it’s so sad and disappointing to find out that the Easter Bunny doesn’t exist.
Celebrate the moment
Parents can also talk about how it’s such an important step for kids to be ready for the truth.
You might say, “All kids hear the story of the Easter Bunny, and when they realize it’s not real, that’s a really special moment.” It shows how much you have grown and how adept you are at solving problems on your own. I think we should celebrate!
Coming of age tradition
Parents may also want to turn the occasion into a positive coming-of-age tradition, where they learn that Easter is all about family togetherness and celebration.
You might say to your child, “Even though there isn’t really an Easter bunny, the magic of Easter is really about doing all the fun things with our family and friends, and showing us that we love them. by offering them chocolate gifts.”
Children like to feel involved, so you might ask them, “What would you like to continue doing each year to keep the Easter magic alive?” »
Read more: Why kids really believe in Santa Claus – the surprising psychology behind the tradition
When are children ready to hear the answer?
When advising parents, my usual rule of thumb is that if a child asks a question, they are ready to hear the answer. This goes for all subjects, including painful or embarrassing subjects.
But children communicate in many ways, so let your child guide you.
Every child is different, and while all children go through broad developmental stages, some children may want to hold onto their beliefs about the Easter Bunny and Santa Claus longer.
Read more: 7 ways to make Easter safe and inclusive for kids with food allergies
Rope in older children
How do you handle the situation where there are children of different ages in the family? If parents want the younger children in the family to believe in the Easter Bunny, it can be helpful to “recruit” the older children in secrecy.
Older children are more likely to support Easter Bunny magic for their younger siblings if they feel important and part of something special.
However, if the youngest child learns from his older brother that the Easter Bunny isn’t real, that’s okay too. Older siblings may help the youngest develop a range of complex cognitive skills. Watching older kids discover the truth about the Easter Bunny can help anyone.