Is belief in Santa harmful to a child?
KIds are going to find out eventually the truth. It can only be taken as a setback, feeling duped.
Admitting all of that, I still think that believing in Santa Claus – and then not too many years later NOT believing – is as healthy a process as a young person could go through.
For one thing, it has been shown by educators that a child’s mind needs to soar. Fantasy is fundamental. The human mind needs to grow. Fantasy is an exercise for the mind. Santa is one such way for kids to find wonder in life.
For another thing, kids can so easily believe in Santa because (aside from being told by authority figures like their parents), the main point of the story is — ME! Santa is going to visit ME! Before they worry about how Santa could possibly visit every house on the planet in one evening, the story poses no obstacle for belief, because it isn’t about logistics — it’s about ME! The focus of the story about Santa is the kid!
This is a boost for the wonder of life and a kid’s place in this life: Kids find themselves the focus of attention. Santa is visiting ME!
But eventually they find out. Whether it’s a sibling or a peer or a parent, somebody tells.
This discovery need not be a disappointment. It can be occasion to compliment the youngster. “Hah! You found out! Good for you!”
You can go over with the youngster the unlikelihood of Santa being able to visit all of the kids in your town let alone all over the world in one evening. This is critical thinking. Kids need to be complimented for critical thinking.
Also – sensitivity. The me-focus of the story may give way to a youngster wondering about others. How does Santa visit kids in Europe on the same night he visits ME? The broadening of one’s concern for others is sensitivity that kids need to be complimented for.
Parents who choose not to tell their kids about Santa – I’m sure the parents are intelligent enough to provide some other ways for their kids to wonder and soar.
But for those who tell the story, perhaps it’s best to remember – don’t just tell the story and then leave your kids to their own devices about finding out and being disappointed. Their discovery of the truth needs to be praised.