Shevonne Hunt hosts Feed Play Love, the bite-sized parenting podcast that puts expert advice and real-life stories in your pocket.
It seems Santa is under siege, people. A recent article published in Lancet Psychiatry argues the Santa myth is a lie that may damage your children and undermine their trust in you later in life.
Cue ridiculous media coverage and outraged articles about the damage of this little (red-and) white lie.
We’re seriously telling parents how to celebrate Christmas now? That telling children about Santa is lying to them, and potentially damaging?!
That Santa magic
My family had Santa every year growing up, and contrary to the latest evidence presented in Lancet, I have a great relationship with my parents and I trust them implicitly with everything, from minding my own children to personal details of my mental health.
Christmas time is one of my fondest memories from being a child. Believing in Santa wasn’t just about getting a sack full of presents (though that was part of it); it was the anticipation of something magical, unbelievable and amazing happening. It was tradition to put out the beer for Santa and the carrot for the reindeer. It was part of my childhood, a childhood full of believing in things that weren’t real.
I believed that my toys came to life when I went to sleep. I fell deeply in love with Narnia and all that happened on the other side of the wardrobe. My imagination was bright, colourful and full of hope, with a belief in the impossible that puberty and later adulthood almost completely destroyed.
I don’t remember my parents telling me about Santa and being destroyed by the ‘lie’. I do, however, distinctly remember getting older. I remember losing my childish ability to believe. And I grieved that loss. I knew something was changing and I didn’t know how to stop it.
So yes. I tell my children that Santa comes on Christmas Eve.
I love Christmas, and I love getting presents for my kids. I love thinking about what will delight them, and the surprise on their faces. I read The Night Before Christmas to my son for the first time the other day, and I saw his eyes light up in wonder. I will also try to teach my children about gratitude and kindness at this time.
Christmas is an opportunity to create new traditions in your family. And if you’re worried about the consumerism that springs up at this time, make new traditions. Use a kindness advent calendar, or volunteer helping the less fortunate.
Don't stop believing
But don’t feel like you have to throw the baby out with the bath water.
My husband often argues that believing in Santa is like believing in God (he’s an atheist) and that it’s all a lie - Santa, God, the Tooth Fairy and the Easter Bunny. But I’m holding on to my own belief, that as parents we can create memories for our children that are full of magic and wonder. That’s my opinion.
Really though, what I want to say is this: parents get enough advice all through the year about how to parent, and what we should and shouldn’t do. Surely we can be left alone at Christmas time?
Whatever you choose to do this season, I hope you make those choices based on what fills your heart, and the hearts of your children.
Because ultimately, that’s what Christmas is about.
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