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Children Will Discover Truth About Santa

Holiday Feature Story


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DENTON — As each holiday season passes, parents of young children ponder when is the right time to tell their youngsters that there really isn't a Santa Claus. However, children tend to know instinctively when it’s time to stop believing — whenever their fantasy world starts to fade into more reality-based thinking.

"Some children as young as five years old will discover on their own there is no Santa. Others will hold on to the belief until about nine years of age," said Dr. Karen Petty, associate professor of child development at Texas Woman's University.

In a young child's world, anything is possible and there is no distinction between fantasy and reality. "Their play is their world. Everything is play and imagination. But as a child develops, he or she becomes more aware of the real world," Dr. Petty said.

“It’s when you become logical that you lose some of your magic,” she said. “By the third grade, the logic is beginning to override the magic. So, in time, a child will discover the truth about Santa on his or her own." But some children may not acknowledge the discovery for fear that admitting there is no Santa could mean no gifts.

Even in the "magical" world of a child, he or she can deduce that adults who no longer believe in Santa Claus receive fewer gifts. The child might pretend to believe after discovering Santa doesn't exist out of fear of receiving fewer or no gifts.

Making Santa part of a family culture or family ritual can ease those fears. "There are many aspects to the holidays, with religion and spirituality being the most prominent. But the holidays are also a time of family and fun.

"Santa represents the spirit of giving and fun and parents can use him to teach their children about giving," Dr. Petty said. Incorporating Santa into family holiday culture, even when children know he doesn't exist, keeps some of that childhood magic alive and reinforces lessons on giving.

"If you don't believe, then he doesn't exist. But if you choose to believe, he becomes part of your family's holiday traditions," Dr. Petty said.

Still, many parents may fret when their children question if there really is a Santa. Dr. Petty recommends parents help the child make the discovery rather than simply give them a one-word answer.

"When a child asks if there's a Santa, a parent can respond with something like, 'That's a good question' or 'Well, what do you think?'" Dr. Petty said. Helping guide the child to the answer not only helps them develop reasoning skills, it gives the parent and child a chance to discuss the importance of what Santa represents and how he fits into family holiday traditions.

Although some children may be disappointed to learn there is no Santa, Dr. Petty said she's never met a child or adult who was bitter toward his or her parents for perpetuating the Santa myth.

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For Further Information Contact:

Roy Kron
Director of News and Information
Tel: (940) 898-3456
e-mail: rkron@twu.edu

 

 

Page last updated November 9, 2004

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