Most parents know that lying to our kids is not a good idea — it’s not respectful or kind, and is likely to cause our children to mistrust us in the future. And that mistrust could possibly carry over into their adulthood.
However, what about Santa, the Easter Bunny, and the Tooth Fairy? Is it okay to tell our children that Santa Claus is real? Or is this just another innocent “white lie” that we all tell our kids so we can watch their faces light up with joy on Christmas morning?
Some believe that the “Santa-Hoax” is a dangerous path that can psychologically affect our children’s capacity to trust adults when they eventually find out the truth. But I believe that it all depends on the child’s emotional make up. I think some kids don’t completely buy the Santa story, but others might feel betrayed when they find out that it had all been an elaborate lie concocted by their own parents.
Some parents go a bit overboard on the Santa hoax — actively doing things to make it look like Santa had visited or telling stories of hearing noises on the roof or just missing seeing him.
On the flip side, some parents, (thinking they’re being honest and progressive) go too far and end up killing all the joy Christmas. However, there are gentler approaches besides outright lying to children about Santa and exposing the whole thing as a cruel hoax—as long as these approaches are motivated by joy, love and respect.
I explained to my children when they were very young that Santa wasn’t a real person but that he represented the “spirit of Christmas” that so many people enjoy. But I also taught them to respect those who believed in a “real Santa” and that we should let their parents explain it to them.
I remember the next year while me and my son were in a convenient store a woman looked down at my son and said, “Is Santa coming to your house?” My son looked up at the woman and in his matter-of-fact voice answered, “No.” Stunned at his answer the woman said, “Haven’t you been a good boy this year?” “Yes.” He replied. “Well then Santa’s coming to your house!” The woman exclaimed. My son then looked at me strange and whispered, “Dad, no one’s told her yet!”
Talking to our kids about the “Santa Game” can be great fun—just like we might talk about fictional characters such as Iron Man, or Sleeping Beauty. But going out of our way to try to make our kids really believe that there’s a man who rides around in a flying sleigh and lives at the North Pole with his wife and elves, just isn’t necessary. Our children are naturally able to enjoy the wonder of make-believe without our fabrications. It’s possible to really get into the whole Christmas spirit as much as our children do by just following their lead.
Remember, Jesus said, “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 18:3)
May your holidays be filled with the joy and wonder of a child.