It’s fine to foster Santa Claus’ beliefs in kids

November 14th, 2007 - 2:58 am ICT by admin  
Western Carolina University child psychologist Bruce Henderson has said that kids’ thinking about Santa Claus and other figures reflects their general level of cognitive development.

“Santa is just one of the many fantasy figures that exist in the preschooler’s world. Adults might just be wasting time by trying to get a child of that age to give up on such a warm and fuzzy character to accept adult realities,” Henderson said.

Henderson said that the trouble comes when a child begins to think in a more concrete, rule-governed way and has doubts about Santa’s ability to get everywhere on Christmas Eve, or when disbelieving peers start raising questions. Research as far back as the late 19th century suggested that this happens about in the age of 6 or 7.

“Most parents do not worry very much that encouraging the Santa myth is harmful or that eventually spilling the beans will make their children mad at them. They are torn, however, about what to do when their children directly confront them with their doubts,” he said.

“At one extreme are those who suggest that any kind of deception is wrong. On the other extreme are those who consider most any fantasy to be valuable for stretching the child’s imagination. A good rule of thumb to keep in mind is that children are remarkably resilient in response to hurt and disappointment,” he said.

But, he said that those parents who are concerned about deceiving their children should probably avoid a lot of Santa mythology from the beginning. If they celebrate Christmas, they may want to emphasize the historical figure of Saint Nicholas or talk with their children about the role of Santa Claus in Christmas tradition.

The issue for parents who wish to encourage their children’s fantasy may be more problematic. During the preschool years, parents can enjoy the myth with their children; however, as their children’s thinking becomes more concrete, they will have to shift their own thinking to be consistent with the thinking of their children.

“The reality is that children may be more ready to give up the more magical aspects of the Santa myth than their parents are. The risk is that such parents will lose credibility in the face of their child’s concrete thinking and the knowledge they have gained from their peers. This risk is most serious for religious parents who may want to carefully separate the Santa folklore from the historical, religious significance of the Christmas celebration,” Henderson said.

He said that as in many aspects of parent-child relations, perhaps the best advice for parents is to let the child provide the cues.

“Forcing an elaborate Santa Claus story on children serves no good purpose for child or parent. On the other hand, following the child’s lead in fantasy play about Santa Claus is likely to do no more harm than imaginative play surrounding Elmo or Mickey Mouse. Parents can respond to direct questions honestly with answers appropriate to their children’s developmental levels,” he said.

But, he said that there is no need to be a Scrooge or turn your child into a Grinch who steals other children’s joy. (ANI)

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