Should I encourage my child to believe in Santa Claus?
My husband and I are trying to decide if we should allow our children to believe in Santa Claus. I remember being very hurt when I found out that my parents had lied to me when I was young. I want my children to know that what I tell them is real. I don’t want to put any of us in the situation that the kids can’t trust me. --Sharron D.
Having such a large (and what most people would consider traditional) family I’ve been asked this question many times and it always confuses me. Firstly, you are not your child and your child is not you. How you responded to something is not a fair indicator of how your child will respond. When I was young I was not allowed to help my mother clean. It hurt my feelings. I decided never make my children endure the trauma of being rejected, I would allow my children the treat of being a helper. Even when she was very young, if I told my Cara we were going to spend the day cleaning the kitchen, it was a delight. If I told Teagan the same, mutiny would ensue. Each child is different. Please do not assume that your child’s trials will be the same as your own or that each of your children will grasp the same trials.
Secondly, I don’t understand why parents insist on taking away the luxury of a little challenge and disappointment from their children. People seem to have lost the understanding that hardship is an important part of the human experience. It is the only way to learn that you are able not only survive adversity, you can use the experience to enrich your life. A parent that never allows a child to experience the negative side of life (and help them to work their way through to the positive side again) is guaranteeing that the child will grow into a very unhappy individual.
We tend to think of our childhood as little snapshots in time. The day we found out about Santa. The day we brought home the family dog. Those are important memories, but they are a small part of the business of growing up. Raising children is a never-ending process of determining what path your child is on at the moment and helping her to see everything important about the reality that only she can recognize. Your reality and her reality will never fully match. Your job, as a parent, is not to introduce your vision, but to guide her vision.
When your child is small, the marvel of life and magic of childhood will be available for only a short time. Being swept up by all sides of Christmas, from the sparkling lights, to Santa, and then all the way to the religious beliefs that your family shares is an important part of learning who she is as an individual, a part of the family and a part of the community. When that same child is a little older your traditions will grow with her. When the time is right your child can change from being the receiver of magic to the creator of magic. When your child gets to an age that setting aside the convention of Santa is appropriate, perhaps moving to a more mature role in the same play is suitable. That lovely child, full of memories of wonder and giving, can then become Santa - providing a magical Christmas for someone else, be it a homeless child or an elderly shut-in.
Shannon, your child will go through many phases. Just as you do not hand the keys of your car to a three-year-old and wish them safety (but do so willingly for your seventeen-year-old) there is always time to provide enchantment for your children, but it must befitting your child and her current reality. Santa. Using the remote control to ‘magically’ open the garage door. The Tooth Fairy. Sucking an egg into a bottle. Finding the perfect prom dress. Magic not only creates wonderment, it creates a bond, the strength of tradition, and fun. Never overlook the importance of sharing joy with your children.
Magic does not end with childhood. Think of the first moment you had that wee one in your arms. Was there ever anything more spellbinding?
Enjoy your blessings,