You're leaving for your family Easter lunch, trying to make sure all children 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 a special kind of magic for both children and adults. Like Santa and the tooth fairy, the Easter bunny represents the pure innocence and fun of childhood. With a dash of imagination, and plenty of beautifully wrapped chocolate, what could go wrong?
Well, unfortunately, the truth may be what goes wrong, leading to tears for disappointed children.
Thankfully, there are ways to manage this situation gracefully and even use it as a learning opportunity.
Storytelling has played a rich part in our human history and evolution. When we tell stories to children, we teach them about about social norms—the rules and expectations society expects of us all.
Santa and the tooth fairy teach children about socially desirable behavior—behave well and you'll be rewarded. The Easter bunny teaches children about celebration and showing appreciation through giving gifts.
Children are usually very good at separating the unreal from the real. Depending on the circumstances, this 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've experienced over the years.
It's a time to celebrate
There's some loss for kids in finding out the truth, but there's also a gain.
The process of children finding out the truth can be a really important learning experience for your child. Asking questions (about the Easter bunny or other tricky matters) develops their critical thinking skills, important milestones in child development.
However awkward you may feel, such critical thinking should be celebrated and supported.
So, what shall I say?
You'll be relieved to know you can handle the question, "Is the Easter bunny real?" without ruining the magic and ritual of Easter.
If your child is questioning and unsure
To support your child, you can relax, listen carefully and be guided by your child. Aim to answer questions in a simple, straight-forward way. But remember, you don't need to give the answer straight away.
You might say: "Hmm, can you tell me why you think the Easter bunny might not be real?"
When children learn their parents will always listen to them, take them seriously, and answer their questions as best they can, this will strengthen their bond by building trust.
If your child has heard other kids asking
Some kids may be asking about the Easter bunny because they've heard other kids asking the question, but make it clear to you in other ways they still want to believe.
You might say: "Even though other kids are asking about it, it sounds like you still believe in the Easter bunny? Should we see what happens this year?"
If your child is sad about the truth
For most kids, finding out the truth is a positive experience. But some may feel really sad and upset when they find out. For these kids, it will help if parents acknowledge and validate their feelings.
You might say: "I know it feels so sad and disappointing to find out the Easter bunny isn't real."