Many parents are beginning to question this long-standing tradition – ‘the great Santa deception’. So how can we maintain a trusting, truthful relationship with our children while still letting them have the magic, and maintaining the Christmas spirit?
I’m calling into question the long-standing Christmas tradition that has been created around Santa Claus. Especially the ‘If you’re not good, Santa won’t bring you any presents’ part.
I believe we CAN tell our children the truth about Santa WITHOUT taking the magic out of Christmas.
Our little guy is 27 months and we’re planning to have a tree and give him a gift or two, which he’ll know comes from us. As he grows we’ll share with him the true story, which is a story about unconditional love and giving.
The story of Saint Nicholas who snuck money into some stockings of a family in need. An anonymous and unconditional gift. And how people loved the idea of giving so much it has become a tradition and we now give gifts every year for Christmas.
We’ll let him give away any toys or clothing he’s grown out of to his friends, as he’s motivated to, at this time of year. But also any other time of year too.
Because these origins are actually about unconditional love and giving with kindness in our hearts, it’s easy to emphasize those aspects of the Christmas season and de-emphasize the others.
Christmas has become quite a stressful time for many families as it’s all about buying ‘things’ to stack up under the tree.
Many parents use this to barter with and bribe their child, and even threaten – ‘If you’re bad Santa won’t come’. This kind of takes away from the whole meaning which is based on unconditional giving, and certainly takes away from the magic.
Truth is a beautiful thing
I feel that children are ready for the truth as soon as they start asking the questions.
Children trust us and it’s our duty to navigate that with care and respect. Not only does truth create trust, but it’s pretty hypocritical if we expect them to tell the truth, but want to justify telling them a lie.
Modeling truth and honesty are keys to our kids feeling safe and valuing truth & honesty themselves.
If you want to do the whole Santa down the chimney thing and leave out the letter and the cookies etc, you could make it a game –‘the Santa game’ – and play it wholeheartedly. As you would any imaginative play game with your child/ren.
Children can cope with wholehearted imaginative play without having to believe that it’s real. And without getting entangled in the web of tricky lies many parents tell, with questions like ‘Why are we going to the toyshop to change the broken toy? How come you have a receipt for it?’, ‘why doesn’t Santa visit kids from other cultures?’ ‘what’s inside that cupboard?’…etc
Often what can seem like a small harmless lie becomes bigger because you end up creating lies on top of lies! Then a desire to give our kids a magical experience gets tainted by the cover-up and stress… it becomes not so magical anymore!
The Magic of the Child
I wouldn’t personally tell any child that Santa ‘doesn’t exist’.
Because he does for many children who believe in him! Kids experience the world emotionally, and with a wonder and openness that is quite magical!
It’s so important in their early childhood to allow them to experience things magically, not rationally.
Children need to express themselves
Unfortunately, the modern version of Christmas has kind of twisted a beautiful story into an opportunity to barter, bribe and even threaten children with.
‘You’d better watch out, you’d better not cry, you’d better not pout I’m telling you why. . . He sees you when you’re sleeping, he knows when you’re awake, he knows if you’ve been bad or good so be good for goodness sake …’
Pretty creepy actually!
Kids need to have privacy, space away from adults and the freedom to fully express their feelings.
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Loving Lessons in Giving
Psychological studies tell us that we actually experience more joy when being ‘good’/loving and kind to others when we don’t get anything in return. It’s naturally reinforcing and an important way for children to develop an intrinsic motivation for kindness and giving, rather than doing it because of being bribed or for the approval of parents.
In fact, it has been shown that kids who get rewarded for doing something experience less joy from that activity and are less motivated towards that behavior again. Interesting hey?
My partner & I feel that making a focus of giving on one particular day of the year is not the best way to teach children about giving with love in our hearts.
When you practice love in your daily life you automatically want to give regularly. No matter how small the gift may seem, if it comes with a loving feeling from the heart, this is what giving is all about.
Personally, I enjoy a bit of the Christmassy spirit, just for the fun of it!
But for us, it’s not so much about December 25th but having a time of the year where the world slows down, we slow down and can have some time together focussing on what has meaning for us.
This is being present with each other and practicing love and giving to each other, and others with an open heart.
Over to You
What about you? How have you kept the balance of staying truthful with keeping the Christmas spirit alive? What has meaning for you and your family this time of year?
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I sincerely hope your holiday period is filled with truth and love, connection and joy!