Why declaring the Easter Bunny 'essential' during a pandemic can help kids cope
TORONTO -- For families celebrating Easter, this year’s festivities will look much different from any other.
Due to the continued spread of COVID-19, many will be spending the holiday indoors. This has sparked concern over whether or not the beloved Easter Bunny will pay its usual visit.
For parents, this presents a puzzling question: should you tell your children the Easter Bunny is under quarantine too?
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On Tuesday, Ontario Premier Doug Ford declared the Easter Bunny an essential service provider under the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act. In a formal declaration issued by the province, the bunny has been authorized to deliver Easter chocolate, candy and related treats to children across Ontario – making sure, of course, to avoid parks, playgrounds and other outdoor recreational spaces.
“I know it is tough for the younger kids to explain what is going on right now and the kids have simple things they are worried about like the Easter Bunny,” Ford said during a news conference at Queen’s Park. “So kids, the Easter Bunny has become an essential service and he will make sure they have chocolates ready for Easter.”
Ford’s declaration comes after Toronto Mayor John Tory announced that he intended to raise the issue with the premier. Tory himself declared the Easter Bunny and Tooth Fairy essential workers in the city of Toronto. This comes one day after New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern added both creatures to the country’s own list of essential workers.
Premier Francois Legault also deemed the Tooth Fairy an essential service in the province of Quebec.
According to Dr. Julia Broeking, the idea of declaring the Easter Bunny an essential worker is a good one, especially for young children like toddlers, preschoolers and those in early elementary school. The clinical child psychologist insists that maintaining these types of traditions helps promote a sense of routine and consistency, which children respond well to.
“It can help to keep up with certain rituals and positive occurrences in the family, and I think the Easter Bunny story kind of falls under that,” she told CTVNews.ca over the phone on Tuesday. “The more, during these unusual times, that you can keep certain traditions intact with families, the better you’ll see that children will be coping with the more drastic changes.”
Establishing a sense of routine is important for children in general, she says, whether during or outside of a global pandemic. Keeping schedules as consistent as possible is important in reducing the pressure children face, as well as promoting mental health.
“When you have natural transitions where there is less routine, like in the summer, children often struggle when parents completely let go of regular [schedules],” said Broeking. “It can create a lot of anxiety.”
While consistency is crucial, Dr. Dina Kulik also stresses the importance of keeping children informed. The pediatrician insists on maintaining an open conversation with children about what’s happening in the world and how it will continue to impact their lives. But she also cautions parents to be mindful of their children’s ages when determining how to approach these types of topics, which can often be scary for children and difficult to understand.
“How I talk about COVID with my five-year-old is very different from how I talk about it with my nine-year-old,” Kulik told CTVNews.ca over the phone on Tuesday. “It’s very kid dependent – it depends on age but also personality and temperament.”
According to the doctor, honesty is the best policy when speaking to children, but it must be age appropriate. Conversations should be based on what children would like to know. She recommends to start by finding out what they already know, and build off of that, while making yourself open to answering whatever questions they may have. It’s important not to overwhelm children with too much information, she warns.
“Conversations should look at what they are concerned about and what their questions are versus just opening up about what you think they want to know,” she said. “You may be telling them more than they need to know or more than they want to know, and it might be causing more fear.”
According to Broeking, it’s about finding a balance between staying informed and following the rules, while also having a bit of fun.
“It’s about really paying attention to and following all the guidelines while…creating an ongoing forum where you can still engage in joy with these imaginary stories.”