Believing in Santa is a great part of being a child. It brings families together and so much excitement, fun, and enjoyment to children (and many adults).
However, in the past few years some psychologists have voiced their concerns against Santa. Why? They don’t have anything personal against him but they are against parents lying to their children because they believe that it may create mistrust between parents and children.
What is my take? This is it: “Oh come on!!!!!!!!!!!” Can’t we allow our children to be kids, and let them believe for a while in a world where everything is possible? I am all for honesty but isn’t this taking it too far?
Let’s have a look at the research on this topic (which you hopefully will trust more than my opinion).
Will telling my child that Santa exists bring mistrust to our relationship?
NO. There is no evidence supporting that belief and later disbelief in Santa will create any mistrust between you and your child.
Is it negative for children to believe in Santa?
NO. Magical thinking is part of children’s development specially between the ages of 5 and 8. During these ages, many children have an imaginary friend and believe in monsters and flying carpets. They believe in the Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy (in Spain instead of the Tooth Fairy we have a mouse called Perez- go figure!). Blurring the lines between reality and fantasy is part of childhood.
Children don’t believe everything they are told or see. Why do they believe in Santa?
There are many reasons for this. First, they really want to believe! It is wonderful!
Second, everyone around them (including their parents who they trust the most) tell them that he is real and even more they leave evidence around the house to support the story. And contrary to what one may believe, the more men dressed as Santa children see, the more they believe he is real.
What’s the typical age for children to find out the (sad) truth?
Most research shows that around age 8, children start to figure out that the story of Santa doesn’t add up. Most children come to this conclusion on their own when they realize that the story is physically impossible (“So Santa is coming through the chimney with the reindeers?”).
How do children react?
There is no evidence to support that finding out the truth causes any distress or that children will mistrust their parents. And even when it comes as a disappointment, it does not last long. Even more, a recent study shows that some children report feeling relieved once they know the truth and others felt pride to be in the ‘inner circle’ of those in the know.
Is it better to tell children the truth or to let them be?
Importantly, children report feeling better when they managed to find the truth by themselves. So, even if you think your child is too old not to know the truth, let them be!
Sometimes your child may know but they choose not to tell you because they want to keep the magic going or because they think you will be sad once you know they know.
By the time your child comes to you to discuss it, they usually have given it plenty of thought and are ready to face reality. With Santa (as with everything else), follow your child’s lead. Use their questions to assess where to take the conversation and what they are ready to discuss and understand.
One important thing to tell them once they find out is not to spoil the fun for other kids: “Once you know, your job is to keep the magic going for other kids”.
And from REC Parenting that is what we wish for your family this Christmas: a very magical time for you all. You can get in touch with us at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Ana and the REC Parenting Team