Letting Your Kids Believe In Santa Claus Could Cause Serious Damage, Child Psychologist Claims

Most kids who celebrate Christmas believe in Santa Claus at least for a few years. How you find out that he doesn’t really exist tends to vary — maybe a classmate told you or you just had a sudden epiphany — but generally speaking, it’s a pretty benign experience. However, a child psychologist warns that this seemingly innocent tradition could be causing children serious harm.

  1. It’s not really down to the belief. Believing in Santa, just like believing in an imaginary friend, isn’t really the problem. After all, plenty of kids go through this and grow up to be perfectly well-balanced and high-functioning adults. It’s not really indicative of any deep-seated developmental issues.
  2. It’s all about how long you let it go on for. According to child psychologist Dr. Amanda Gummer, the problems begin when you let your child believe in Santa Claus for too long, especially because they might be embarrassed or feel betrayed if you don’t tell them the truth early enough. “It is important that your children trust you and believe what you tell them, so if you keep the myth going for too long there’s a danger that you’ll damage your credibility with them which can be damaging for your relationship as they get older,” she told the Daily Star.
  3. So when’s a good time to break the news? According to Gummer, the right time is probably before middle school, or before a kid turns 11 or so. This seems to be a sweet spot because it doesn’t take away a child’s imagination but it also doesn’t allow them to look foolish with their friends should the discussion come up. “Many parents feel that sending children to secondary school still believing may lead to bullying, so the Christmas of year six is a good time if they still believe then,” she said.
  4. If kids do ask, you shouldn’t lie. If for some reason a younger child is told by a peer or overhears somewhere that Santa isn’t real, the last thing you should do is lie to them to keep up the farce. You can kindly and sensitively have a discussion with them about how Santa is a representation of Christmas joy and the spirit of giving so that they still have positive memories and associations.
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