Imaginary and make-believe play are totally appropriate for young children. However with make-believe, kids know certain things are not real. When it comes to the Easter Bunny, it’s a whole other story.
Children are believing in something completely untrue. Should you encourage kids to believe in myths such as the Easter Bunny, and if so, when should you tell them the truth?
Lying to your kids
To perpetuate the myths of the Easter Bunny and Santa Claus, parents must lie to their kids. Some parents don’t believe in taking part in such elaborate deceptions. They worry these myths can cause distrust of the parents when their children realize the truth later on.
Additionally, some parents think these myths promote materialism and greed because the emphasis is on receiving rather than giving. However, proponents for the Easter Bunny and Santa will say it’s actually the opposite — the Easter Bunny and Santa Claus can be symbolic of the gift-giving spirit associated with the holidays.
What the experts say
Many psychologists say you should let your kids take the lead when discussing the Easter Bunny or Santa Claus.
“Forcing an elaborate Santa Claus [or Easter Bunny] story on children serves no good purpose for child or parent,” child psychologist Bruce Henderson of Western Carolina University told MSNBC. “On the other hand, following the child’s lead in fantasy play about Santa Claus is likely to do no more harm than imaginative play surrounding Elmo or Mickey Mouse. Parents can respond to direct questions honestly with answers appropriate to their children’s developmental levels.”
Read about when to tell your kids the truth about Santa Claus >>
You might find your child knows the Easter Bunny is imaginary but likes to perpetuate the myth. He may be concerned that if he stops believing, there will be no more Easter egg hunts, chocolate rabbits and Peeps every year. Remember that as your children get older, you can continue with the same Easter traditions, even if all your kids know the truth that it’s you who is filling their baskets with treats.
To tell the truth
Most of the time, parents don’t have to sit down with their kids and break the news that the Easter Bunny doesn’t exist. Many kids believe whole-heartedly for several years. Then, when they reach age 7 or 8, they begin to have some doubts. Between their own intellectual development and the chance that another child tells them, kids usually piece it all together on their own when they are 8 to 10 years old. Around this age, if your child asks if the Easter Bunny is real, just be honest. If your child is older than 10 and still believes in the Easter Bunny, you should fill them in on the truth. Let your kids know that although the bunny itself is imaginary, it’s part of a tradition that brings a lot of joy and fun to kids at Easter time.
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