My husband and I have always agreed that we don’t want to lie to our children about anything. We always want to offer our children age appropriate truths.
By this I mean when our four year old asks where babies come from, we will not tell them stories about cabbage patches and storks, nor will we get out a biology book and explain about ovaries and erections. We will simply tell them that babies come from mummies’ bellies. Not a lie, not information overload — an age appropriate truth.
We feel confident that we can adapt this style of communication to almost any topic without crossing boundaries or stepping on toes. That is, until we get to the most socially acceptable and widely perpetuated lie: Santa Claus.
This is where we lose some our confidence in “honesty is best” policy. We both agree that encouraging belief in something known to be false is akin to lying, but reactions we have received so far is that not doing so would be detrimental to our child’s mental wellbeing.
Both our families for example (and most of our friends for that matter) strongly feel that kids need to believe in Santa, the Tooth Fairy and the Easter Bunny to enjoy a happy and fulfilling childhood. When we express our discomfort with untruths, we hear the classic “it never did you any harm” defense.
We are told we will be robbing our children of a magical time in life and that they will lack imagination or any sense of wonder. But I ask; why do children need to believe in mythical figures to be excited and inspired in their formative years?
This quote I found really resonated with me. “I like to believe that while other children are living in wonderment over all of these fictional characters, that my children are living in wonderment over how big our galaxy is, and how much is out there that we really do not know about. About how life is formed, and how life ends. My children have plenty of magical experiences, and the best part about theirs is that they are real!”
Amy and her husband are atheists, and have also opted out of raising their daughter to believe in Santa Claus. Sometimes, especially in groups of... Read more
We know that this what we want for our children. To be excited by the real wonders of our world, to be inquisitive, to question everything, to appreciate every day miracles.
But how do we actually do this in practicality? How do you explain that Santa is cultural myth symbolizing hope and goodwill, not a real person, to a young child? How do you ensure that your 5 year old doesn’t ruin it for the other kids? And more importantly, how do you still keep the magic feeling of Christmas alive for children without Santa?
Every year my husband and I give each other a gift “from Santa” and “from” our two dogs. We derive joy from this make believe and pretend. We want our kids to have that feeling too … that pretending is fun!
I would love to hear how other offbeat mamas are dealing with this issue.
Comments on Santa Claus and age-appropriate truths
I have a one year old daughter and I fear this exact thing. I would like to make the choice not to lie to my child, but with the cultural beliefs it will be hard. This is what I have decided to do, but I can’t promise that it will work well:
Depending on my daughter’s maturity level I intend to ignore the topic this year and next year. Surely she will hear about santa claus, but I don’t intend to perpetuate the lie. I will have to wait and see if she will be ready when she is 3 or 4, but each year we “adopt” a family for the holiday. At the point that she will understand, I will have her help me pick out gifts for the family. I’ll explain that some people believe in santa claus, and some ARE santa claus. We are a santa claus. We help to buy presents for people who don’t have a lot . But the trick is that no one knows who is santa claus and who believes in santa claus, so we have to be very careful about who we talk to it about. You can talk to your family, but you can’t talk to other people about it. Will this work? I don’t know. She will probably be THAT kid who tells all of the kids in kindergarten that there is no santa. but hopefully I will be able to teach her not to.
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