New research claims that lying to your children about the existence of Santa Claus may be harmful to children and create a level of mistrust between the parents and kids.
During the holiday season, peace, love, and goodwill towards man is preached in troves as the holiday spirit takes hold across the world. During this celebration, parents perpetuate one of the greatest lies in history, the existence of Santa Claus.
The promise of the jiggly man coming down the chimney with a bag full of gifts is a lie that may massage the imagination of a child, just as the Tooth Fairy and Easter Bunny do, but what happens when the child finds out the truth? Are years of lies and the potential for mistrust worth the fairy tale joy during the childhood years? Psychologists seem to think the belief in Santa Claus might actually be more harmful in the long run than otherwise.
In a paper, titled “A Wonderful Lie,” by Christopher Boyle and Kathy McKay, they claim that the capability of lying to children in such a casual manner may lead to mistrust when the children figure out that Santa Claus is not real. It may also lead to a questioning of other beliefs, such as whether God is real or not, according to CBS News.
“If they are capable of lying about something so special and magical, can they be relied upon to continue as the guardians of wisdom and truth? If adults have been lying about Santa, even though it has usually been well intentioned, what else is a lie? If Santa isn’t real, are fairies real? Is magic? Is God?”
Christopher Boyle is a professor at the University of Exeter and Kathy McKay is mental health researcher at the University of New England. The duo believe that forcing the belief of Santa Claus is one of morality and question the nature of forcing myths as truths.
— Dmitry Zaks (@dmitryzaksAFP) November 25, 2016
Boyle’s concern is centered around the fact that all children eventually realize that the belief in Santa Claus is a lie that is spread during the holiday season, one which is often used as a threat to coerce children to behave. As such, the trust between the child and parent may become questionable at that time, thus causing other beliefs to be questioned, such as the belief in God, the belief in parental judgment, and more, according to Science Daily.
“All children will eventually find out they’ve been consistently lied to for years, and this might make them wonder what other lies they’ve been told.”
Despite the focus on lying about Santa Claus, the researchers do admit that white lies are sometimes helpful in explaining difficult situations, such as the loss of a pet. For example, providing hope that a deceased animal will go to Heaven is much more acceptable that explaining the complex process of decomposition to the young child.
Dr. McKay believes the impact of believing in Santa Claus carries onward into adulthood as parents attempt to relive the magic of their youth through fantasy movies and books as they try to reclaim some of the imagination they once held tight.
“Many people may yearn for a time when imagination was accepted and encouraged, which may not be the case in adult life. Might it be the case that the harshness of real life requires the creation of something better, something to believe in, something to hope for in the future or to return to a long-lost childhood a long time ago in a galaxy far far away?”
— Munaf Mughal (@iMughalMunaf) December 2, 2016
Despite the research presented by Boyle and McKay, there are others that believe the Santa Claus lies are an integral part of transitioning from childhood to adulthood. Dr. Mona Delahooke claims that belief in fairy tales allows the transition from childhood to the ‘reality of real life’ is essential in the process, allowing the child to learn how to master emotions.
What are your thoughts on the great Santa Claus lie? Should the myth of Santa be treated as such, or is he a harmless distraction for children during the holidays?
How did finding out that Santa Claus is a lie impact you?
[Featured Image by Kiselev Andrey Valerevich/Shutterstock]