Why It’s Totally Ok To Teach Your Child About Santa Claus…and even that creepy Elf On The Shelf…
Christmas is supposed to be a magical time in the eyes of a small child. Some parents are deciding to ban the Jolly Fat Guy, and everything that comes with him, and not allow Santa to join in their reindeer games. So what does that mean for the parent who is undecided about letting Santa join their family for Christmas?
First, let’s explore why so many parent’s are now completely against Santa Claus…we’ll get to the Elf later.
What Did Santa Do To You?
A lot of new parents are opting lout of having anything to do with Santa, for a multitude of reasons. The majority of which, being that they either felt betrayed by their parents for being lied to, or simply don’t want to lie to their kids at all. Which I understand – because why would you fervently instill a belief in something that doesn’t exist? Why would you actively lie to your child?
A lot of parents don’t think that bribing their kids with tales of bearded, red nosed men breaking into the house while they’re sleeping (wait…this isn’t sounding very wholesome) and leaving presents under a dying tree they’ve cut down and drug into the house (…this is actually sounding worse by the minute), is the correct way to enforce good behavior.
Which, on all counts-I agree with!
But…there’s a few things about the Santa Claus debate I should clarify my stance on…
Now, lying to your kids is inherently bad. But realistically, no parent is ever 100% honest. If you claim you are, you’re a liar. Let me explain…
You told Timmy his broccoli was going to taste good. Timmy’s taste buds detected THAT was a lie. (Timmy doesn’t like broccoli, and you know this. Nothing you can do will change the fact he takes after his father, who also hates broccoli)
You told Sally her rendition of the Star Spangled Banner on the recorder was excellent. Bu the ear buds placed in your ears to drown out the off-keys determined that was a lie too! (This happened to a friend of mine)
Yes, these are petty lies. White lies. Lies that don’t actually hurt anyone. But they’re still lies. At least, to the child perceiving them this way, once you’re caught. So if you want to hold a fictional character to those standards, first you must start with yourself. But at least these lies have reason – Timmy must eat that damn broccoli so he gets proper nutrition. Sally can’t know just how terrible her playing is, because if you ruin her confidence, she may never get any better at it!
So why can’t Santa Claus have reason too?
But why is Santa Claus worth lying about?
He’s not – that’s the thing! You don’t have to teach your kids a lie, to teach them about Santa! Just as I mentioned earlier, he’s a fictional character. There’s nothing wrong with teaching your children about fictional characters to make a holiday more enjoyable. Because that’s the point of Santa Claus – not as a tool to get your kids to behave. Not as a way of stealing credit for the good gifts under the tree. Santa is simply fun. But that’s the problem with the Santa story. Kids only take him too literally, because parents are teaching it too literally.
You can still teach your kids to enjoy Santa Claus, and get excited about this character, as long as that’s what it is-a character. But guess what? If your kid has such an imagination that even if you explain it’s just for fun, and they totally believe it anyway…it’s not the end of the world.
It’s meant to be fun, and if a little belief makes it even more fun-who’s it really hurting?
There’s nothing wrong with Santa Claus
Or teaching your kids about Santa Claus. It’s something magical and fun to add to the holiday – and they can learn the story of Santa, and even leave him milk & cookies. Or perhaps, *gasp*, expect a present from him under the tree! As long as they understand it’s pretend!
Kids love their imaginations, and writing letters to Santa isn’t going to hurt that one bit. They can create memories and traditions, which is what the Holidays are all about! But as long as you are putting enough emphasis that he’s not actually real, then you aren’t contributing to the Santa lie. You’re encouraging imaginative play.
If they believe in Santa completely, based on their friends beliefs, or even supposed “proof” of Santa’s existence..it’s something that happens anyway, because kids enjoy believing in magical things. Even with everyone telling them it isn’t real, they’ll make it real if they choose to.
But other kids are taught that he’s real – by using things like the Elf on the Shelf!
See, I told you that we’d get to the Elf…
Look, we’ve established that lying to kids is wrong-even though we all do it (so no one, really, no one, is a saint). And no, kids shouldn’t be bribed, tricked, or negotiated with, in exchange for good behavior. The Elf On The Shelf isn’t any more damaging than Santa, as long as it’s used as a tool of play-not perpetrating a illusion. It can be fun to dress the little Elf up and pose him in crazy scenarios all month long..I guess. We don’t have an Elf. That’s too creepy.
Well, my kids believe Santa is real, am I a bad parent?
No, you’re not. You might be a bad parent for many other reasons, but I don’t know those reasons. Or you, dear reader. But no, I don’t believe you to be a bad parent because your six year old thinks Santa is real. THAT IS WHAT KIDS DO!
Children love to find things to believe in; Sharknado might actually happen, or that their toys could come to life and talk to them. That’s what happens when you have an imagination. So if they really wanna think Santa is real, and especially if they attend school and hear about him from friends – is it really worth crushing their little hopes of someone bringing them a special gift under the tree?
Probably about as much as it’s worth being truthful about their skills as a new (as in, really un-trained)musician.
If your quest to be the most honest parent in the world means outing every fairy tale and holiday character as a farce, then get ready to have your work cut-out for you, because there’s tons of them out there. But luckily, and un-luckily, the amount of time your child would naturally have to believe any of it, is extremely short. And it’s still not hurting anything if they do believe.
Eventually, the inevitable happens…
Usually about the age of 7 or 8, your child will find out the truth about Santa Claus. Will it psychologically damage them to learn that their loving parents are liars? That there’s a global conspiracy about the validity of a old man visiting every house around the world in one night?
Your kids will be as scarred as they were the day they caught you sneaking vegetables into their food. Which isn’t that much.
Disappointment is something that everyone has to learn to deal with sometime. And to be able to handle grown up disappointments, like not getting that big promotion or the car you wanted, first you have to deal with little ones. And like it or not, Santa Claus is one of those milestone disappointments that every kid endures-and survives. These kinds of disappointing tings are designed for kids to learn how to address their feelings over. Let them practice with the appropriate situations, so when they come to something legitimately worth being that upset over, they will know how to handle it.
If there is an adult that still carries the scars of learning the truth about Santa, they probably have deep seeded resentment towards their parents for a lot more complicated things than not getting that pony they wrote Santa for 20+ years ago. Which is a little unfair to blame Santa Claus – you know, the fictional character – for. But no one is ever seriously emotionally damaged from finding out the truth about Santa Claus, or the Tooth Fairy, or even the Easter Bunny.
So when you really think of it – telling them the truth, or insisting on a lie – is about as equally damaging. Which isn’t a whole lot at all.
I guess you really have to ask yourself…do I want my kids to have memories of these fictional characters around the holidays…or not?
In the end, this isn’t something to get incredibly upset about. The presence of Santa Claus, or absence of, isn’t in any way going to totally shape the outcome of your child’s life.
So celebrate how you want to celebrate…
If you don’t want to teach your kids anything about Santa, then don’t. No one is forcing you to. And while others might be teaching their kids that the fat guy is most definitely watching their every move, rest assured in this. Most likely, it’ll be your kid that spills the beans at school, and tells all his classmates that his parents taught him Santa isn’t real. And while normally the trickle down effect of someone else’s parenting choices affecting my child would bug me, it’s just a lead-up to the inevitable realization that Santa is only pretend-a lesson in disappointment, meant to be learned and dealt with, anyway.
If you are following through with the Elf and Santa and reindeer….cherish the excitement and joy you child will experience. Because the magic doesn’t last forever – it disappears with Adulthood.
Whether or not you’re doing Santa Claus, all kids grow up. And have their own kids. The Circle Of Life continues.