Holiday Stress: Should You Teach Your Kids To Believe In Santa?

by Doc Orman, M.D.

In my previous post, I talked about how believing in the myth of Santa Claus, while possibly innocuous itself, may set us up at an early stage of life to believe in many other myths that can produce lots of stress for us as adults. As just one example of this, I cited how we have many false beliefs about stress today that are just as preposterous and just as unrealistic as our childhood belief in Santa.

Having taken this stance, however, I’m going to argue in this post that it’s probably a good thing to go ahead and teach your kids to believe in Santa Claus anyway.

Why Teach Your Kids A Lie?

First, let me say that I have not been paid by Toys ‘R Us, Walmart, Target, or by any lobbyist representing “corporate greed” to make this endorsement. I’m just basing it on my own experiences as a kid, and from what I’ve been fortunate enough to learn about stress (and about life) as an adult.

I know there may be some people reading this post who believe one should never lie to a child or teach a kid to lie. And there may be others who equally passionately believe that sharing myths, stories, fables, and other fairy tales with young children is perfectly appropriate and may even be a normal, healthy part of childhood development.

I think both of these positions have merit.  And if I was appointed to be the Thought Ruler Of the World, there’s a part of me that would want to instantly use my new power to wipe out all incorrect thinking and lying the moment a young child is able to think.

However, untruths and lies are part of human life, and I don’t think we’re ever going to become free of them.  For one thing, it’s humanly impossible to ever know the absolute truth about almost anything, so all of our thoughts are probably untrue in one way or another.  This is why the British mathematician and philosopher Alfred North Whitehead once wisely remarked: “all truths are half-truths.”

But even if we could know the absolute truth, part of this truth would likely be that there are always going to be human beings with motives to distort it.  Thus, if you want to prepare your children for living happily and successfully with other human beings, you’re going to need to find ways to support them in dealing with lying.

You Can’t Protect Your Kids From Lies

I know it’s tempting to believe that you can be a more enlightened parent and create a family environment where lies are never tolerated, and this may be a laudable goal.  But at some point, your kids are going to have to leave the house, go to school (unless home schooled), or otherwise venture out into the real world where lies, false beliefs, advertising messages, political comments, media reports, and a host of other inputs will be swarming all around them.  And I do mean SWARMING—perhaps in far greater numbers than the flock of blackbirds featured in Alfred Hitchcock’s famous movie “The Birds.”

During the Holiday Season, there will also be many elderly, white-bearded, rotund, jolly gentlemen dressed up in red pajama suits just about everywhere you go. Now you could attempt to prepare your kids for this onslaught well in advance, by disabusing them of the myth of Santa Claus at a very early age.  But would you really be doing the best for them by doing this?

Protectionism vs. Empowerment

Now, I don’t think anyone truly knows the final answer to this question.  And it may depend on so many other variables that it’s impossible to predict the best course of action for any given child or family unit.  But I do believe there is one argument that can be made for going ahead a teaching your child to believe in Santa Claus, right along with all their other brainwashed toddler peers.

And this argument is that it may be even more beneficial for your kids to discover that Santa doesn’t really exist—on their own.  Rather than you doing all the work of trying to keep this lie away from them or alternatively teaching them all about adult lying behavior at a very early age, why not let them have the joy and sense of empowerment to discover this fabrication on their own?

I’m sure one reason parents might not embrace this strategy is that they may be concerned their kids will lose trust in them, since it would be clear they were the ones who inflicted this Santa lie upon their vulnerable minds in the first place.  But this fear could easily be overcome by holding this all in an empowerment context.

After all, when the light bulb finally comes on and your kid comes to you to accuse you of a major transgression, you could take this opportunity to lovingly and excitedly congratulate them for coming to the correct conclusion on their own.  You could boost their self-esteem by acknowledging them for engaging in a very adult and very realistic bit of critical thinking.  And then you could tell them about how you anguished over the decision about whether to expose them to this myth or not, but that in the end, you thought they would better off sorting it out for themselves.

You could even put some icing on the cake by telling them that you thought it would take years longer before they saw through the myth, and you are amazed at how quickly they were able to do it.  Then, maybe you could begin to have some conversations with them about other forms of lying and deceit they are likely to encounter in life.  But now, they will be in a much better place to engage with such discussions, once they’ve had a mini-transformative experience such as letting go of the Santa Claus myth, which they produced on their own, with the resulting destruction of their previously innocent world-view.

Now I’m not saying my position on this debate is correct, nor am I saying that it would be best for everyone.  All I’m saying is that it’s a point of view worth considering.  At some point, we all need to wake up and realize we’ve been repeatedly lied to.  And many of us need to keep relearning this lesson, over and over again.  So exactly how we get there is not all that important, just as long as we eventually arrive.

Whether Santa Claus is a help or a hindrance to us in this essential maturation process probably doesn’t matter all that much.   He’s just one of many opportunities we have to creatively figure out how to best empower our kids to be happy, healthy, and successful in their lives.  And if we do decide to use Santa Claus to help achieve this goal for our kids, it could turn out to be the very best gift Santa ever brings them.

Here’s a link to my free holiday stress relief e-book on Facebook.





{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Wedding photography December 15, 2011 at 5:13 PM

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Jodecy December 30, 2011 at 11:46 PM

Hey, good to find somenoe who agrees with me. GMTA.


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