Right now most of you are taking out those Easter baskets, busily boiling and dying eggs and buying chocolate bunnies. My kids loved Easter and couldn't wait to find the eggs that the Easter Bunny hid around our yard. I have to admit--I loved perpetuating the whole myth. The day my boys figured out the Easter Bunny wasn't real took a bit of the magic out of the season.
It's always around this time of year that parents ask me whether they should tell their kids about the Bunny. Relax. Research finds no harm in the Tooth Fairy, Santa Claus or the Easter Bunny. They are part of great folk lore tradition such as George Washington and the cherry tree and Paul Bunyan and his blue ox, Babe. For that matter just about any Disney animated movie or fairy tale fits the category. Young kids love those tales. Their imaginations are so wonderfully active and they eat them up. There is only one trick: Knowing when to admit the Easter Bunny is really just a tale. The second trick is knowing when your child is ready to end the magic.
For any of you struggling with the "should I tell up?" issue, here are a few tips:
Watch for "the signs." If your kid starts asking more specific questions about Mr. Easter Bunny ("Where does he live?" "How does he find our house?" "How does he store all those eggs?") know that he is starting to put two and two together. Just be a bit more alert as to his queries. Know that the time for that "Is the bunny real?" may be approaching.
Clarify your child's question before answering. We often barrel ahead giving too much or the wrong facts without first checking to verify what our kids are really asking for. So just clarify: "What do you mean?" "I'm not sure I understand your question. Tell me more."
Explain at your child's level of understanding. If your child flat out asks, "Is the bunny real?" you might save yourself a huge explanation. First ask, "What do you think?" Or "What do your friends say?" When kids know that the bunny isn't real they often just need affirmation.
Tell the truth when your kid is on to the "tale." Once your child does know that the Easter Bunny is just a fun tale don't try stretching the myth to last longer. Usually all that is needed is a simple, "Yes, you're right. The bunny is just a make-believe story but wasn't it fun to pretend?" The vast majority of kids will agree wholeheartedly. The mistake is trying to perpetuate the tale to a school-aged child once he knows. There's nothing worse than for peers to tell him he's wrong and then it's your sweet munchkin having to defend YOU to the other kids.
Happy Easter! Enjoy the magic of make believe with your kids as long as you can. The glorious stage of magic goes by all too quickly.
Dr. Michele Borba is the author of over 22 books including 12 Simple Secrets Real Moms Know .