Parents, be warned. By letting the round-bellied man in the red suit into your homes this Christmas, you may be doing your kids more harm than good.
According to two experts, going along with the pretense that Santa Claus is real is damaging to our relationships with our kids. Specifically, the lie undermines a child’s trust and is morally wrong, say psychologist Professor Christopher Boyle and social scientist Dr. Kathy McKay.
“If [parents] are capable of lying about something so special and magical, can they be relied upon to continue as the guardians of wisdom and truth?” they write in the journal The Lancet Psychiatry.
To make us feel even worse about our deceitful, immoral selves, they also suggest we may be perpetuating the Santa myth not for our children’s happiness, but because we can’t just cope with the realities of adulthood.
McKay, from the University of New England in Australia, cites the indisputable fact that grown ups like to watch movies like Harry Potter and Star Wars, and TV shows like Doctor Who to back up this theory.
Oh, and the old “Santa’s watching” warning that we start relying on from, oh, mid-October to make our kids behave is basically child abuse. Boyle and McKay believe our kids find Santa’s “naughty or nice” judgment of them “terrifying” — although we can’t see the nice kids being too concerned about it, and would the naughty kids — being so naughty and all — really care either?
“The morality of making children believe in such myths has to be questioned,” Boyle, from England’s University of Essex, said. “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.”
Now, children have been lied to about Santa for hundreds of years. As well as the tooth fairy, fairies in general, and various other mythical, magical creatures who may feature in our children’s imaginary lives. As far as we know, no child has ever reported Santa-related psychological harm, or attempted to sue their parents for failing to take responsibility for their Christmas gifts.
Do we trust our parents less when the Santa lie is revealed? Of course we don’t. It’s a lie that couldn’t possibly be underpinned by better intentions. For most of us, by the time we find out the truth, we’re mature enough to deal with it. Life is full of lies — white lies, big lies, good lies, bad lies — and betrayals and broken relationships. Some kids aren’t lucky enough to have parents who want to bring the magic of Santa Claus into their lives, so let’s not take him away from those who do. And let’s not forget that lots of kids are smart enough to see through Santa long before their parents let him go — maybe that’s because it can still be magical without being real.