Christmas is almost upon us and the questions about Santa’s existence become part of the daily routine. When kids come to us with so many questions about Santa should we lie or should we tell them the truth about him?
Believing in Santa Claus can benefit children’s creativity, imagination, and play. The idea of believing without seeing is fundamental to being human; it is the basis of trust in the relationships we create.
The Benefits of Believing in Santa
Through imagination, children develop emotional and psychological capacities that help them understand and make sense of their world. Pretend-play encourages children to focus, think through hypothetical situations, problem solve, develop social and reasoning skills, develop theories about how people think, work collaboratively, learn to negotiate, create new possibilities, create a new identity or new worlds.
Welcoming Santa can be part of a family tradition. Family traditions strengthen bonds, provide a sense of belonging for children and create memories that last a lifetime. More importantly, family traditions tell children a story about who they are and the importance of family. Children who have knowledge of their family’s history and take part in traditions have higher levels of confidence and self-esteem.
The Concrete Operational Stage
Psychologist Jean Piaget, the pioneer of cognitive development, suggested that children enter the “concrete operational stage” of thinking between the ages of four and eight.
This stage is marked by questioning. Children become sceptical, and they use their imagination to try to figure things out. They experiment and use logical reasoning to evaluate evidence. When your child asks, “How can Santa deliver all the presents in one night?” She uses her knowledge learned at school and home and applies critical thinking skills to figure out the truth about Santa. This is all developmentally appropriate.
My daughter asked me last week, “If all living things die, Santa cannot be a living thing. Does it mean he is not real?”
Should you keep lying about why Santa can do all these things to keep the belief alive?
While there are many benefits to protecting children’s belief in Santa, it’s not OK to lie to children about his existence.
Discovering the truth about Santa is part of growing up and a sign that the child is developing critical thinking skills.
When children ask whether Santa is real, parents need to decide whether the child is ready to let go of the fantasy. When your children start asking these questions, let them lead the discussion. Asking them their thoughts about Santa and if they believe will provide you with some ideas of how to respond.
You don’t want to lie to them. It is important children learn to trust their parents. These early relationships are essential for children in developing strong connections which will last a lifetime.
What to Do Instead
But you might decide to talk to them about continuing to welcome Santa as a family to keep the tradition alive beyond early childhood and develop a unifying family tradition.
Sharing how Santa became a tradition and telling your child St. Nicholas’ story highlights the spirit of generosity, altruism, kindness and gratitude.
You can use the Superpower Kids Would You Rather printable to keep the imagination alive even if the belief in Santa is not.
AMA: Why Family Traditions Are Essential to a Happy Family