gmhTODAY 11 gmhToday Nov Dec 2016 - Page 62

Oh, Santa, Johnny want’s to know … S anta Claus is a big part of the Christmas tradition for many families, bringing festive magic to kids and a trip down mem- ory lane for adults. But Santa can also cause a lot of guilt and worry for some parents. Some people may wonder if it’s really okay to lie to their kids about Santa Claus. How and when is a good time to let them know he’s not real? Like any debate, there are pros and cons to the Santa myth. People who encourage belief in Santa do it for the joy and wonder it inspires. The excitement of leaving out cookies and milk, waking up early to open presents, and perhaps even getting a letter back from the jolly man in red, are all special ways the family can connect and cherish the holidays. Parents get a chance to recreate the wonderful Christmases they had as kids. Or if their Christmases weren’t so great growing up, it’s a chance to do it better. Parents who are against telling their kids about Santa claim that it will break their trust and they might resent their parents’ deception. Another concern is that encouraging the belief in Santa Claus might make it difficult for children to distinguish between fantasy and reality. Whether you’re for Santa or against him, evidence shows that kids really aren’t harmed eith er way. Research suggests that the ability to separate fact and fiction starts early in childhood. Kids are constantly taking stock of what others around them believe and they use their reasoning skills to decide whether those beliefs have merit. Having them believe in Santa won’t shatter those budding cognitive abilities. In fact, 62 kids with rich fantasy lives might actually be better at identifying the boundaries between fantasy and reality. Children naturally start to question if Santa is real in early adolescence. They may have heard conflicting opinions from older children at home or at school, or maybe they figured it out for themselves. Still, they may turn to you for a definite answer and how you choose to respond goes a long way to making the transition an easy one. First, think carefully about what your child is really asking. Some kids want the whole, unrefined truth, while others might suspect that Santa’s not real but want reassurance that they can pretend a while longer. An easy way to gauge this is to ask, “Do you think he’s real?”, and let them share their thoughts. You might be surprised to learn that they’ve known for a while and they’ve been playing along with you! If your child is the analytical type and loves mysteries, you can have her gather evidence both for and against the Santa case and present her findings to you. She’s bound to notice discrepancies, like how there are Santas at every mall or how one man can’t realistically fly to every house in one night (or eat all those cookies!). She’ll be honing her critical thinking skills while she does a little sleuthing. When she figures it out, congratulate her and present her with a special gift, such as a bag of her favorite candies. In this way, discovering that Santa isn’t real will be less of a disappointment and more of a rite of passage. She’ll be taking a big step towards a new stage of maturity. If, after you tell your child Santa isn’t real, he becomes upset that you lied to him, acknowledge and empathize with his disappointment. It may be tempting to backtrack and say anything to brighten his GILROY • MORGAN HILL • SAN MARTIN NOVEMBER/DECEMBER 2016 mood, but ultimately it’s better to stick with the newly-revealed truth. Accepting his bad feelings, instead of trying to talk him out of them, sends the message that you love him and value his feelings and that you are there for him. You can share with him that the modern-day story of Santa Claus is based on the life of the real person, St. Nicholas of Myra, and that including him in your Christmas tradition is a way to remind us all to be good and giving. Explain that your intentions were never to hurt him, but to give him joy and excitement. Even if your child doesn’t respond positively right away, eventually he’ll come to appreciate that you were honest with him. Just because your children find out that Santa isn’t real doesn’t mean the magic of Christmas is lost. Let your older kids take the reigns as Santa and have them pick out gifts to give to the younger kids in the family. They can stay up with you and help put presents under the tree, or even play Santa for needy families by participating in a toy or food drive. They might find that they have more fun playing Santa than they did believing in him! Article Brought To You By: 855 Moro Drive, Gilroy • .gokids.org gmhtoday.com