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Debating whether or not to tell your children the truth about Santa Claus? Expert gives advice.

Child development expert advises parents and caretakers how to talk to their children about Santa Claus
Jess rodriguez
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If you’re a parent, caretaker, or anyone with small children in your life, you may be helping to keep the mythical magic of Santa Claus alive. But what do you when you start feeling like maybe it's time to tell them the truth?

Many of us remember the moment we found out the big man dressed in red wasn’t actually the person delivering presents to our homes on Christmas. For some, it’s not a big deal to find out the truth, but for other kids, it can be really upsetting.

If you’re a parent, caretaker, or anyone with small children in your life, you may be helping to keep the mythical magic of Santa Claus alive. But what do you do if a child finds out what they believe isn’t real, or if they start asking questions? Mya Harris, a mental and behavioral health consultant at Mayfair Pediatrics-Children’s Wisconsin, offers some advice.

Harris advocates for parents and caretakers to value transparency and honesty if a child begins to question the merits of the Santa Clause story. Caretakers should also communicate their motivations behind sharing the Santa story with their children in the first place.

This can create an ideal environment to bond with your child over concepts like family traditions and sharing moments in their adolescence, notes Harris. Many children are naturally inquisitive so honesty can be an invaluable part of this process.

Regardless of whether a child continues to believe in Santa or not, Harris advises parents and caretakers to instruct their children to be respectful of other children's beliefs.

"So it's really just being respectable and saying, 'You don't believe in this or we don't believe in this, [while] somebody else might, and that's OK. We all have our own different beliefs,'" she says.

While there are contrary viewpoints on introducing Santa to kids, Harris says there are beneficial aspects to the Santa story, such as enriching general child development. Santa can not only encourage imagination, but also represent concepts of togetherness, generosity, peace, joy and selflessness. Harris says parents and caretakers should encourage these concepts rather than the materialistic, behavioral-incentive motivations that often accompany the Santa story.

"If a child had a bad year — maybe a lot happens in that year or maybe they've been struggling a lot. [Parents] probably shouldn't put weight on whether they should get gifts or not," she says. "Let's try not to put too much weight on on the gift giving and spend more time talking about celebration and togetherness."

Ultimately, Harris encourages parents and caretakers to trust their children's ability to enjoy this season. "Like most things, yeah, [adults] tend to overthink things. Our children are typically pretty resilient and enjoy their time with the holidays," Harris says.


Audrey is a WUWM host and producer for Lake Effect.
Rob is All Things Considered Host and Digital Producer.
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