Christmas is a magical time of year, especially for children. Unfortunately, between elaborate Elf on the Shelf staging and fending off questions about Santa, parents are often left wondering how much of the magic depends on them.
Specifically, many parents worry about whether they should encourage their children’s belief in the physical reality of Santa, about the potential impact of lying to them and what to do when their children realize they’ve been duped.
Rest assured, parents, it’s not all up to you. In fact, the best approach involves supporting your kids while they figure it out on their own. They will, and it won’t be as bad as you expect.
As a developmental scientist, I spend most of my time researching children’s trust. I’m interested in how trust develops and what happens when it’s broken. During the holiday season, I spend a lot of time thinking about Santa.
As a proud auntie of three children under the age of four, my Santa musings have taken on a new significance. But, unlike many parents, I see the development of a belief in the physical reality of Santa, and the eventual myth-busting, as impressive achievements to be celebrated, not feared!
Research in the field of developmental psychology suggests that such fantastical beliefs are not actually harmful, but are associated with a number of positive developmental outcomes— from exercising the ‘counterfactual reasoning skills’ needed for human innovation to boosting emotional development.