To most people, the answer to this question is obvious. In fact, the majority of people would instantly defend Santa and his magical world of flying sleighs and reindeer. There are others though, who will argue that it is wrong to lie to your children, even if it is only for fun. What do you think?
If you believe that Santa is an important part of childhood, you may even reject the word ‘lie’ and re-phrase it as ‘white lie’ or ‘little fib’. You would argue that the Santa story is innocent and magical and that children should be kept naive for as long as possible. If loving this make-believe character makes children happy then why on earth should it be taken away from them? For some, Christmas is only Christmas when there is a Santa Claus. Most parents love the role they play in the Santa story and enjoy how excited it makes their children. They also enjoy Santa’s power over their child’s behaviour, believing that only ‘good’ children will receive presents.
Studies from the USA and Canada have shown that most children know all about Santa Claus. They know who he is, what he does and how he travels around the world in one night in his big sleigh. Many children do not view Santa as a normal person, but as a magical person. Only a very small percentage of children over the age of 8 believe in Santa. By the age of 7, the majority of children worked out or were told that he was not real. When children do find out that Santa is not real many of them react positively – they feel clever to have worked out the truth.
This type of positive reaction could be based on the child’s experiences with Santa and how he has been portrayed. If Santa represents many positive aspects of people such as being good, jolly and generous, then believing in Santa can teach children that it is good to have these qualities and they should strive to obtain them themselves.
If you believe that it is always wrong to lie to children, the Santa story will be part of this. You will either tell your children about Santa, his reindeer and his elves as a magical story rather than the truth, or, you will allow others to lie to your child, but never say anything untruthful yourself.
Parents frequently tell their children stories, making clear to them that it is fiction. Children are able to understand pretence. The pretence of stories makes them fun and safe.
Children trust their parents and many other adults around them, and believe what they are told is the truth. The one thing that parents and teachers try to get through to their children is that it is wrong to lie. If children discover that their parents have lied to them their whole life, they may lose faith and trust in them. They may remember the look on their parent’s face for the rest of their life. Children may begin to question everything else their parents may have told them, doubt the integrity of their parents and possibly other close adult relationships around them. Children may then find it increasingly difficult to distinguish between telling the truth and telling lies. Many older children are told not to tell their younger siblings that Santa is not real – this gives the child permission to lie and encourages deception.
There will always be two sides to this argument. Some people believe that the Santa story is an essential childhood experience, that it is magical and innocent and causes no harm.
In contrast some people believe that is never acceptable to lie to children because it can negatively affect that child, potentially for the rest of their life.
There are no right or wrong beliefs. It is totally up to you whether you tell the children in your life that Santa is real or just a story. The only thing that we should do, is respect each others’ right to choose what feels right for them.
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