Experts have warned parents not to let their kids believe in Santa Claus for hundreds of years (as far back as the Reformation). But Santa can't be defeated. He always comes back to town, stronger than before.This survey found that Santa's popularity is growing year after year (especially with moms, for some reason). He's even becoming more important to non-Christians.
Most kids know that Santa isn't real by the time they're eight though many start figuring it out as young as four years old.Dr. Anderson also found that most kids had a positive reaction to learning the truth about Santa Claus. The vast majority said they thought their parents perpetuated Santa Claus to help them enjoy Christmas.
In the New York Times, Carole S. Slotterback, professor of psychology at the University of Scranton and author of “The Psychology of Santa" noted that in interviews with several hundred college students, just one indicated distress that Santa wasn't real. (And that was because her father told her Santa had a heart attack.)In separate studies, two out of three kids said they felt a sense of pride in figuring out the truth about Santa Claus.
It's a sad commentary on the lack of wonder and imagination in our time that many parents (and parenting experts) think that letting kids "believe" in Santa Claus might scar them.
In the New York Times, Dr. Alison Gopnik said:
“Why do children love imaginary figures like Santa Claus, then? Because they like to pretend. And when children pretend, they are exercising the evolutionarily crucial human ability to envision alternative ways the world could be. In adults that ability is at the core of our very real capacities for invention and innovation.”It's a sad commentary on the lack of wonder and imagination in our time that many parents (and parenting experts) think the story of Santa Claus can scar kids. When my kid was four, she said, "Goblins aren’t real like fairies are, right?" I loved that she lived in a world where fairies are real. I wanted to protect that fantasy for as long as possible.
A good imagination is critical for healthy development in young kids. A powerful fantasy life helps kids model and understand the world. Imagination is an essential human adaption.This Slate article highlights three studies that show how age-appropriate belief in fantasy subjects like Santa Claus can give kids advantages for emotional understanding, imagination, and reasoning.
This study shows that kids who have rich imaginary lives (including imaginary friends) correlated to higher scores for emotional understanding.
This mindset can also help kids formulate creative solutions and new ideas.
It's about warmth, lights on a tree, faith in a Savior, family time, gifts, togetherness, joviality, the end of the year, the return of the sun.
Maybe it should also include faith in imagination. Maybe that's another thing that Santa is good for.
Santa is up to you, and your tradition. The fact that you're even thinking about it bodes well for your kids.
And what to say to them starts they figure it out? I suggest simply asking "What do you think?"
That's the wonder of Santa Claus.