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Discover Truth About Santa
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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
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.
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.
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.
Director of News and Information
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