How old were you when you first learned there was no Easter Bunny? Do you remember finding out Santa or the Tooth Fairy were made up?Some children never believe in these fantastical characters, while others cling to them until their early teenage years. The way the truth comes out is largely dependent on you and, more importantly, your child. When and how should you reveal the truth to your little one?
Many kids will subtly let you know when they are ready to learn the truth about Santa, the Easter Bunny, or any other childhood fantasy. Watch your little one for clues. A child asking questions like “What is Santa’s life like in the North Pole like?” or “What does Santa do when he isn’t making toys?” show an acceptance of Santa Claus myth. Meanwhile, skeptical questions like “How does Santa deliver toys to every child on earth in just one night?” or “How do the reindeer fly?” show your child may be ready to stop believing. Simply asking your child “What do you think is the case?” can give you insight into their thinking and help you formulate an appropriate response.
Dispelling a childhood fantasy doesn’t have to be a disheartening experience for your child. In fact, it can lead to a more mature understanding of the myth. For example, after you explain the Easter Bunny isn’t real, take the time to point out how the myth brings joy to people, is an important cultural part of Easter celebration, and has been passed down from generation to generation. Arguably there is a certain enchantment to that, even if there isn’t an actual magical bunny.
Many parents find themselves in a tough spot when the truth is pushed upon a child who isn’t ready. A child learning from other students at school that Santa isn’t real is a classic example. In this case you need to decide whether you want to try to salvage the myth or have a stark discussion about the truth. It’s a judgment call only you can make. A simple “I don’t know for sure. It’s up to you to decide what you think,” is a safe fallback, and may also encourage your child to develop the sort of critical thinking that will help them in years to come.
Whatever you do, remind your child that, real or fake, a myth is still something they can cherish, enjoy, and share. If you know your child no longer believes in a myth, make sure he or she doesn’t spoil it for younger siblings. Part of the fun of any myth is passing it along.
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