Why Parents Shouldn't Worry About the Santa Claus Myth

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child watching santa put gifts under the tree

Many parents worry about the day when, after years of talking about Santa Claus,  their children will ask if he is real.  

“At some time, a child is going to learn the truth about Santa Claus, maybe because he or she hears things from an older sibling, or maybe because he or she sees four or five different Santas on their way to the mall, says child and adolescent psychologist Joseph (Chris) Bedosky, PhD.

Consider this, however: Fielding even those inquiries can be simple compared to answering questions about more complex situations, such as adoption or divorce.

Magic and Fantasy Needed

Magic and fantasy are normal parts of children's social and cognitive maturation, and so beliefs such as the existence of Santa Claus, need not be discouraged, Dr. Bedosky says.

Even after they suspect Santa may not exist, many children still choose to believe, and there is nothing wrong with that, he says.

“My wife and I used to quote the Polar Express question with our children: ‘Can you hear the bell?’ My wife and I – and our adult children – still hear it. We still get excited about Santa coming,” he says.

Whether a child “hears the bell” or not, it’s important to emphasize that the holiday season isn’t all about getting presents, Dr. Bedosky says.

“It is about being able to make other people happy and sharing joy, which is something that Santa is very good at,” he says. “The special times and family traditions are the things that will make long-lasting impressions that kids take with them as they grow up.”

When Christmas is Stressful

More complicated than the Santa question, Dr. Bedosky says, are the questions children may ask when they start to notice changes that can occur in a troubled family environment or have questions about serious and potentially painful issues such as adoption.

“Some parents may be unsure how to explain complicated and painful situations, and when a child is ready to hear the truth," Dr. Bedosky says. "Many parents think they are shielding their children from something that will upset them. The truth is that most children are very perceptive and they know when things aren’t right.

It’s important to have age-appropriate conversations with your children so that you know what they are thinking, Dr. Bedosky says. A mental health profession can be helpful in helping parents and their children successfully navigate through such issues, he says.

“Parents may be having a difficult time coming to grips with a difficult situation themselves,” Dr. Bedosky says. “A mental health professional is an outside party who can help parents and children make better sense of what is happening."

Related Links

UH Rainbow Babies & Children’s Hospital’s dedicated team of more than 1,300 pediatric specialists uses the most advanced treatments and latest innovations to deliver the complete range of pediatric specialty services for 750,000 patient encounters each year. Learn more about UH Rainbow Babies & Children's Hospital or find a pediatrician close to home.

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