That's it! The excitement of the Christmas season is in full swing! We see more and more decorated houses and lit-up store windows; children are coming back from daycare with Christmas decorations that they made themselves; they start making their gift list and sing Jingle Bells... As parents, we sometimes wonder what the point of all of this really is. Should we let our children believe in Santa?
Santa Claus does exist!
You should know that for children, Santa Claus does exist! They strongly believe it, and their imagination has no limit as to how an old man can possibly distribute gifts to all the children in the world in one night! However, more and more parents are wondering if they shouldn’t tell their kids early on that all of this is just fiction. Whether it’s because they want to teach their kids that their presents were bought with their hard-earned money or because they simply don’t want to get involved in a holiday that has become too commercial to their liking, some parents feel like they are lying to their kids by harboring the myth. So? Is all truth good to tell?
Kids or little adults?
In recent years, more parents have started to see their children as “little adults”. It’s true that we talk to them more, and that they understand a lot. Nevertheless, they remain kids before anything else, and they want to experience moments that are full of magic and enchantment. In fact, they need to. To escape, have fun and laugh of course. But also because through imagined characters, such as Santa Claus, children learn the concepts of good and evil, how to tame their fears, put words to their emotions and find solutions to life's difficulties. In this regard, Bruno Bettelheim1 says that the imagined characters with whom children relate to enable them to resolve their internal conflicts and to overcome their unconscious anxieties. It is a big step in their social and emotional development.
Fear of the BIG question!
As parents, we’re also afraid of the disillusion, the fateful moment when our children discover that it was all just a myth. How can we explain it to them? Will they resent us for it? First of all, know that you don’t need to do a big announcement. Little by little, by themselves, as they age, children will understand that it's impossible for Santa to deliver everyone gifts, and to be at the mall, the annual parade and school celebration simultaneously. They will ask you questions. Probably THE question: “Does Santa exist?” The best advice I can give you is to answer: “ What do you think?” It will break the ice and allow you to see where they stand in their understanding of things. The rest will come naturally.
What about our values?
As far as the values you want to instill to your kids in regard to the holidays, it’s up to you to put effort, energy, and creativity into it.
You do not want your child to be caught in the commercialization of this holiday?
- Avoid malls at all costs
- Make your own gifts (arts and crafts, food, etc.)
- Focus on spending family time
- Sing Christmas songs and decorate the house by using colored popcorn!
You want your kids to develop a sense of generosity and kindness?
Encourage them to choose some toys to give to charities, participate in Christmas baskets’ collections, and make a holiday community meal with friends and family.
You want your child to develop the habit of saying "thank you" to those who offer them gifts?
Establish the tradition of “Santa’s present”. So rather than thinking that the mountain of gifts under the tree came from the sky, you can tell him that only one of their gifts came from Santa. They will then thank the other people who offered them presents the way you want them to.
All these customs we adopt based on our values and personal choices put things into perspective without detracting from the spirit of Christmas ... Because in the end, isn’t this why we continue the tradition; for the magic of this family event? Let yourself be charmed by your little ones’ wonderment! And you might want to believe in Santa yourself!
1 Bettelheim Bruno, The Uses of Enchantment: The Meaning and Importance of Fairy Tales, Knopf, New York. ISBN 0394497716