The Santa Lie: Is Belief Really The Spirit Of Christmas?
My 12-year-old son told me years ago that Santa is a big joke that parents play on children. He thinks all adults are laughing at kids for believing that someone flies around the world in one night delivering gifts. He is not someone for whom the Big Lie works at all.
We teach our kids to tell the truth, we teach them about gravity, and then we expect them to believe in the magic of Santa? I had absolutely no problem being honest with my oldest as soon as he asked the question at the age of three. (And I'm not alone.)
I am not a fan of lying to my kids. I even feel guilty about the Tooth Fairy.
My other two kids are different; they love imaginative play, they believe in fantasy worlds, magic and fairies. I find the Santa issue even more complicated because we are Jewish. How is a Jewish kid supposed to believe in Santa, if they don't get presents from him? Does that mean they are permanently on the naughty list because of their religion/culture? (We have a slight reprieve from this issue as Santa visits my mother's house.)
But what I found is that kids believe if they want to, it doesn't matter what reality dictates to them.
This, according to a really interesting article in Slate, is a good thing. While I always believed that lying to my kids was wrong, and felt proud that my oldest son was smart enough to see behind the lies -- research shows that believing Santa and playing fantasy games is a positive sign.
...regardless of their intelligence, 4-year-olds who frequently engage in fantasy play are also better able than other kids to distinguish appearances from reality (they know that a pink rabbit held behind a colour filter is still pink), understand other people’s expectations (they know people will assume that a crayon box contains crayons, even if the box actually contains a small toy) and know that perceptions depend on context (they know people will identify images differently depending on how much of them they see).
They also may understand emotions better.
This was really interesting to me because my brilliant, cynical child had a hard time figuring out the difference between animation and real people on TV, and he is not the best judge of people's emotions. He is a creative, analytical thinker, but has never been that interested in imaginative play.
So believing in Santa actually makes your kid more intelligent; or at least believing in Santa isn't harmful.
But, losing a belief in Santa is not the overwrought moment that some parents make it out to be. Experts recommend that if your child is asking questions they may actually want to know the truth and you can help them out by giving them the tools to figure it out themselves. Slate:
It’s even possible to teach kids the truth about Santa in a positive way: just give them the tools to figure it out for themselves, Woolley says. If they ask you point blank, does Santa really exist? answer with questions of your own—What do you think? Are you starting to think he doesn’t? Why? Then—because if they’re inquiring, they’re probably ready to learn the truth—start outing the lie. Write a letter from Santa in your own handwriting or hide the stocking stuffers in a slightly too-obvious place.
My playful middle child figured out Santa wasn't real when he realized that my mother used the same wrapping paper for the presents from Santa as she did for the other presents. This shows that he was ready at the age of six to know the truth, despite his brother telling him for the years to wake up to reality.
Do your kids believe in Santa? Do you enjoy telling them about Santa?
Want more chaos? Last year, I asked what you would do if you saw someone spanking their kid in public.