March and April give us two more opportunities to celebrate with our kids: St. Patrick’s Day and Easter. Along with the joy these celebrations can bring, there’s also the chance that your child may ask if leprechauns and the Easter Bunny are real. Telling our children that these beloved characters don’t exist in the literal sense can be a hard conversation, but it’s one that many parents eventually face. It’s natural for children to believe in magical figures, but eventually, they will grow up and realize the truth of their existence and the new joy they can have in believing in the spirit of them.
Here are some tips for how to navigate these conversations:
- Ask Questions: Just because your child is curious about the Easter Bunny or other magical creatures doesn’t mean that they want to know the truth. You can feel them out by holding space for them to ask questions and also ask them, “What do you think?” Or “Can you tell me why you think they may not be real?” You can let your child lead here and by listening to them and taking their concerns seriously, you will continue to build trust.
- Be honest and validate their feelings: Don’t pretend that these characters are real when your child is old enough to know the truth. Be honest and straightforward, but also gentle and kind. You may be surprised at how well they handle the truth. And, if your child is upset, let them fully express their feelings, even if they’re mad at you. Be honest about your reasons for ‘lying’ if that’s part of their concern and soothe any fears that they may have.
- Choose the right time: Make sure you choose a time when your child is in a good mood and has time to talk. Don’t have this conversation when they’re tired, hungry, or upset.
- Explain the history: Talk to your child about the origins of the character and how they became a symbol for the holiday. You can also share that storytelling with beloved characters is a rich part of human history.
- Emphasize the fun: Talk about all the fun things you can still do to celebrate and remind them of the joy it brings to be together to celebrate the holiday.
- Get them Involved: Show them how their role in the celebration has changed now that they’re “in the know.” You can ask them what they would like to do each year to keep the magic alive, which also brings a sense of novelty and joy. This can be especially important if they have younger siblings. Here are some fun ideas to get you thinking!
- Encourage their imagination: Even though they aren’t real, you can still encourage your child’s imagination and creativity.
Remember, this conversation is a natural part of growing up, and it’s important to be honest with your child. The key is to approach the conversation with kindness, honesty, and empathy.
How have you navigated these situations? We’d love to hear from you.