Is encouraging your kids to believe in Santa Claus good or bad for them?
Santa is a huge part of Christmas, but is encouraging your child to believe in Santa Claus really just harmless fun?
For many families in Asia, Santa Claus is nothing more than a cartoon character who pops up at the end of the year to herald in the season of gift-giving and cheer. However, some families take it to the next level and adopt the Western practice of encouraging their kids to believe that Santa Claus is real. But is this good or bad for our kids?
It’s a mixed bag. Many say that there’s no harm in indulging in the fantasy when your children are young. After all, who wouldn’t want their kids to grow up with a sense of wonder?
“I don’t think it’s a bad thing for kids to believe in the myth of someone trying to make people happy if they’re behaving,” child psychiatrist Dr. Matthew Lorber told Live Science. “Imagination is a normal part of development, and helps develop creative minds.”
Why the Santa myth is harmful
Psychology Today states that parents should avoid encouraging their kids to believe in Santa for 3 reasons:
- It’s a lie.
- You risk damaging your trustworthiness in the eyes of your child.
- It encourages credulity or gullibility.
It is true that many who believed in Santa as kids grew up to be well-adjusted adults. But for some children, finding out that their parents had deceived them for years can be heartbreaking, as some told Psych Central. One parent recounts how painful it was for their family when her son learned the truth about Santa:
“[My son truly felt that] we lied to him for many years. He just told me he doesn’t even want to set up a tree this year because Santa isn’t real, so why decorate. His feelings of betrayal have put a dimmer on the season for us for the last 2 years. If I had it to do over again I wouldn’t play so much into the make believe. I would let the child lead and I’d follow.”
Finding out the truth about Santa not only causes some children to stop taking what their parents say at face value, but can also lead them to lose their faith in more serious things, like religion. After all, if authority figures had lied about other things before, what makes their religious beliefs any different?
Encouraging kids to believe in illogical things “just because it feels good” also discourages them from thinking critically. This could have serious repercussions in the future, leading them to believe in fake news, fake documentaries, and so forth.
You don’t have to do away with Santa altogether. Find out how your family can still have fun with the Santa story (without you having to lie to them) on the next page.
How to build have fun with Santa (without lying to your kids)
One of the main arguments around believing in Santa is that it develops your child’s imagination. However imagination is intertwined with pretending, and one only pretends when one doesn’t believe that something exists. Having your child believe that something is real doesn’t encourage imagination, it actually damages it.
To encourage imagination in your children, tell the truth: that Santa doesn’t exist. Then, come Christmas, just pretend that he does. Make it a game! One mother told PsychCentral how doing this was a positive experience for her family:
“In our house we have always played Santa, but it has always been an imaginative game and she has always known that he isn’t real. She is 11 now and we still play the game and it’s still magical and fun. But that’s always all it’s ever been, just a fun game.”
Just like your kids pretend to be fictional characters all the time, they can enjoy Christmas and the Santa myth just as well without you having to lie to them and break their trust.
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