Part of the joy of childhood is the anticipation of waking up on Christmas morning to see what Santa Claus brought, hunting for treats the Easter Bunny dropped off in the night or reaching under the pillow to see how much money the Tooth Fairy was willing to pay for that lost incisor. Many of us have grown up with these childhood myths and have passed down these traditions to our own kids. But it's inevitable that kids will begin to question if these popular icons are in fact real. So how do you handle it? Here are some options.
There is no denying that childhood is magical. Playtime is filled with imagination, creativity and make-believe, and although a young child may have picked up through playground chatter that Santa, the Tooth Fairy and the Easter Bunny don't exist, that doesn't necessarily mean your child is ready to give up these traditions. So why not keep that sense of wonder and imagination alive by playing them up a little. Switch the focus from the question of reality to what the icon represents — the spirit of the myth versus the logic behind it. These myths are about tradition and pretend, so if your family chooses to continue in the belief, at least a little, then what's the harm in that?
As children get older, the more real the world becomes. Mom and Dad can't always shelter them from outside sources. Peer groups, media outlets, social networks and the entertainment industry take on more significance with an older child, and he or she is more likely to pick up on comments, jokes or reports about their childhood icons. When your child has heard or read something about these myths and asks you to validate the comment or idea, it's best to be direct and real. Parents are often concerned that having fun with childhood traditions may be construed as lying, but is perpetuating the myth of the Tooth Fairy, Santa Claus or the Easter Bunny really about lying, or is it simply pretending? Either way, an older child should hear the truth, and preferably from you.
One way to handle questions that may arise is to deal with them before they happen. While some families choose to follow these traditions or their own version of them, there really aren't any set rules. You may decide to have the Tooth Fairy pay visits only up to a certain age or to make the Easter egg hunt something the entire family can partake in. You can choose to have Santa only stuff the stockings, while Mom and Dad put the main gifts of Christmas morning under the tree to discover. The reality is that if dealing with these myths causes you or your family stress, then it's likely time to move on from these traditions and to start new ones.
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