Parenting Debate: Should You Tell Your Kids the Truth About Santa?
Around the time kids turn six, their questions tend to get a bit more…sophisticated: What happens if my eye falls out? How does the baby get inside Mommy’s belly? Is Santa real? You’re on your own for the first two. But for that last one, parenting pundits have plenty to say.
Give Them the Gift of Honesty
“This year for Christmas, I’m going to give [my sons] something much more useful than Skylanders figurines. I’m going to give them the truth,” writes children’s book author Joshua David Stein. “Let us…state clearly that which needs stating: Lying to our children about Santa Claus is just simple lying…There are, in addition, pretty serious implications about lying to your child. We ask them to believe their parents about everything else all the time, about what is dangerous and not, what is kind and unkind, what to adopt and what to disavow. We are their moral Google Maps and how would you feel if your phone led you to falsehood?” Stein notes that one well-intentioned lie (Santa is real) forces parents to spawn an entire web of lies (in answer to inevitable questions about how he's in so many places at once). In piling on the falsehoods, he concludes: “We do damage to [our kids], clearly, but to ourselves as well… Fake news is fake news, even if it arrives on a sleigh.”
Keep the Magic Alive
“There is no evidence suggesting that learning the truth about Santa is traumatic for children—or that it leads to trust issues between kids and their parents," writes Rutgers psychology professor Dr. Vanessa LoBue. "Yes, the Santa myth is a lie, and all children eventually find out the truth. But fantasy in general is a normal and healthy part of child development. Children spend a large amount of time pretending, especially between the ages of five and eight. They are also constantly exposed to media in which animals can talk, people can fly, and objects magically appear out of thin air. Why should a group of flying reindeer be any more fantastical than a talking mouse or a singing snowman? Although magical thinking decreases between the ages of seven and nine (around the same age at which most children give up the Santa Claus myth), it doesn't disappear forever: Sometimes we adults need a little magic in our lives, too.”