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Is Santa bad for children?

Teaching your kids to believe is technically lying, but your kids may not care

By Sally Wadyka Dec 20, 2012 11:36PM

I have many happy memories of early Christmases in which my strong belief in Santa played a starring role. I remember waking up my brother (who was old enough to no doubt already be a non-believer) on Christmas Eve because I’d heard reindeer on the roof. And I’ll never forget the absolute joy and amazement of walking downstairs on Christmas morning and catching my first glimpse of the tree and the gifts Santa had left behind.

What I don’t remember is being upset when I found out that Santa wasn’t for real. And apparently I’m not alone. An informal poll of my friends revealed that few of us suffered many (if any) ill effects from uncovering the truth about Santa. But still, as a parent, I worry about how my being complicit in such a conspiracy will affect my child. My not-yet-two-year-old daughter doesn’t even know that Christmas is coming, but by next holiday season I imagine we’ll be in full Santa mode. Will I harm her mental health by helping to perpetuate the myth? Will she be mad at me when she discovers the truth?

I decided to do a little digging and see what I could find out. There hasn’t been a ton of scientific research on the topic, but one study, published in 2002, offers a few insights. The researchers found that most children they studied started uncovering the reality about the myth around age 7. But rather than feeling let down or lied to, two out of three kids said that they “felt a sense of pride in figuring out the truth about Santa.”

But I still wanted a little more information before I start indoctrinating my daughter into Santaland. So I asked David M. Pollack, MD, a pediatrician at The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, for his thoughts. His take:

“Most young children may believe that Santa Claus is real, but the inevitable discovery that he is actually a myth does not seem to be nearly as traumatic as many parents are expecting. Learning that Santa is not real might take some of the ‘wonder’ out of Christmas, but in my experience it doesn’t remove the joy from the holiday or cause a child to not trust adults.”

That’s a relief. So it seems that I can safely look forward to several years of my daughter sending letters to the North Pole, leaving cookies, milk and reindeer snacks out on Christmas Eve and seeing that look of awe on her face when she sees the tree surrounded by presents on Christmas morning. And apparently I can enjoy it all without having to worry that she’ll grow up hating me for helping to foster the fantasy!

Dec 21, 2012 1:02AM

If your child is traumatized when they find out that Santa is not 'real', I imagine there are issues that go beyond Santa. I remember getting angry at an adult 'do-gooder who felt the need to tell a class of 5-year olds that Santa wasn't real. Please!! It is such an innocent part of childhhood - get a grip!!


Dec 21, 2012 1:12AM
When children grow up...its for a long long time and reality is really tough sometimes, so I say let them believe in fun things, like Santa for as long as they can!
Dec 21, 2012 1:19AM
Stop the non sense Santa is real keep believing! 
Dec 21, 2012 1:13AM
I think you worry to much.  Your kid will wind up hating you for other reasons way beyond Santa!
Dec 21, 2012 1:39AM

Is he time ever coming when we stop focusing on stupidity and just let our children enjoy the wonder of things without worrying about every little thing? Please


Dec 21, 2012 1:18AM
It's a little too late to come up with the idea that Santa Claus is bad for kids. Why don't you just let the idea rest, it's like the Easter Bunny,the Tooth Fairy,the Pot of Gold at the end of the rain bow and the Elf that goes with it. The idiot lady who rewrote the Christmas story about Santa smoking. How stupid is that,a story that has been read over and over and for someone to come up with a change in one of the most popular stories to be read,is a shame,just because she does'nt like smoking. Leave these fantasies alone you're destroying childrens ideas and fantasies that we've grown up with for years!!!
Dec 21, 2012 1:38AM
why cant people leave things alone they have taken away almost everything i can remember growing up here as an america why is it you people have to debate our way of life i will always share christmas and santa with my kids and grand kids. if you don't like it leave.
Dec 21, 2012 1:03AM

If you are really worried about your daughters mental well being why don't you take a little time and do some research on where  and when santa even started. I think you will be surprised!! I know I sure was when I found out.

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