As children, we’ve all read stories ending with the phrase Happily Ever After. And while some people do grow up to live a fairytale life, others live in poverty. Although fairy tales are fun to read, they aren’t the best teaching tool for children. The stories set unrealistic expectations, like growing up and marrying Prince Charming. It isn’t until the kids reach into their teens at the earliest that they realize true love isn’t just sealed with a kiss. Over 50% of marriages end in divorce, after all. The Princess in these fairytales are usually skinny, blond, and have large eyes. What kind of message is this teaching young girls? That you need to be slim to find love? That you need to look a certain way to be beautiful? These stories cause many girls, who don’t psychically look like the princesses that they’re reading about, to become insecure.
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Happily ever afters that exist in fairy tales also send the message that you have to fall in love to live a happy life, and that it should be with someone of the opposite sex. You don’t need to get married and start a family to live a joyful life, but many fairytales make children believe that they do. Men and women of all body sizes and races should be represented as princes and princesses. There should be fairytales with LGBTQ representation as well. Instead of marrying Prince Charming can the princess marry Princess Charming. This will teach children to accept people of all body types, races, and sexualities.
Although happily ever afters are great in the way that they give children hope, young kids should be encouraged to read books with less positive endings as well. As an adult, I’ve read several stories told through the eyes fairytale villains. But it’s a struggle to find similar books for children. Many fairytales teach children that there is evil in the world, but they don’t show them why. Villains very rarely have back stories in fairy tales and when they do, they’re usually brief. Bringing children into the eyes of a villain can help them see the motivations behind bad behavior and teach them that, no matter what they’re going through, it is never ok to cause harm to someone else.
In fairytales hard work and great intentions usually lead to happily ever afters, but in real life that’s not always the case. And while it’s important for children to learn that they should always do the right thing, they should also understand that their life isn’t a fairytale, and that it may not end with Happily Ever After.