Could anyone deny that this kind of lying hurts more than it helps? Wouldn't a healthy, realistic view implanted into young minds be so much better?
It doesn't hurt and it probably does help....
... Children, especially up to age 8 or 9, are extremely interested in the make believe, and they will generate it themselves whether or not their parents talk about the easter bunny.
The more I think about it, the more I'm beginning to realize what a mean-spirited thing this is to do!
''Some parents don't believe in telling their children there's a Santa Claus, and there's nothing wrong with that,'' said Dr. Ian Canino, director of training in pediatric psychiatry at Presbyterian Hospital in Manhattan. ''But for parents who like to have a Santa Claus at Christmas, they aren't creating some horrible precedent of lying to their children. The good aspect of Santa - the noncommercial aspect - is giving, that it's good to give and good to be warm and loving. That kind of Santa isn't a lie, but a symbol of your beliefs. You are concretizing highly abstract social values.''
Many Feel Uncomfortable
Although many parents tell him that they feel uncomfortable about maintaining the Santa Claus fantasy, Dr. Canino said, there are no dangers in encouraging it. ''Children already fantasize very actively at age 3 or 4, when they believe in Santa Claus,'' he said. ''Many parents say that they don't want their children to believe in myths - they want them to have a strong sense of reality. But children at that age want to have fantasies. It's a very normal part of development.''
Dr. Leonard Reich, a child psychologist for the Health Insurance Plan of Greater New York, said: ''Just how much Santa Claus you have depends on how much fantasy there is in your family. Kids need a sense of magic and fantasy, and so the Santa Claus ritual can be a wonderful thing for both parents and children.''
''Frequently,'' Dr. Canino said, ''when they come to their parents with questions, they often reveal the hope that Santa does exist. They'll say things like: 'Mommy, Robert says there's no Santa. Tell me that's not true.' Parents should let them believe as long as they want to. Let the children give you the lead.''
Parents should not worry about children confronting them later on about the Santa Claus deception, Dr. Reich said. ''There's a disappointment in terms of magic,'' he said. ''But the child may feel an unconscious satisfaction when he learns that his parents did the gift-giving. It says that his parents love him and want to give him presents. That's a pretty nice reality.''
Children's beliefs serve as a vicarious source of adult enjoyment and offer children a powerful role within the process. Another parental task is to provide positive role models within family life. At Christmas, Santa is presented as a role model worthy of adulation.
Encouraging children to believe in a benevolent Santa may foster traits of kindness and cooperation. Becoming unselfish depends partly on the gradual development of cognitive recognition of the needs of others, and children begin to comprehend sharing through similar experiences within the family unit. Many children grasp the symbolic lessons regarding charitable giving and consideration of others from the Santa rituals. Festive customs encourage sharing of gifts, time and affection. This may be reflected in their wishes for gifts or better situations for family and friends, or even globally.
Symbolic play is a necessity of this stage, when the child distinguishes fantasy and reality by restructuring and changing their situational reality. Play is purposeful and even simple games act as a forerunner of adult problem-solving ability and creativity (Malim & Birch, 1998). Children send millions of letters and drawings to the North Pole, testifying to their perceived sense of influence in the gift process. Writing encourages children to frame their thoughts. Some schools incorporate 'writing to Santa' as a pertinent class exercise. Stimulating these fantasies helps focus attention and concentration, and may enhance ideals and creative thinking. Particularly for 3-5 year olds, imagination represents a mode of cognitive function that allows expansion of the internal object world and motivation towards increasingly complex relationships with others.
For some, Santa is a vivid companion. He epitomises nurturing and generosity, and this fantasy can help children feel loved and comforted.
A child's suspended belief in Santa Claus amounts to an act of faith and it is unsurprising that children draw parallels between God and Santa. To young followers, Santa is immortal and omnipotent, capable of supernatural acts and an enforcer of moral behaviour. Gordon Allport, in his study The Individual and His Religion, observes that children may equate Santa with God. From a child's perspective, Santa is a spiritual reality who encourages their moral development ('He knows if you've been bad or good!'), and is a transcendent being concerned with their moral welfare to whom sacrificial offerings can be made and even prayers spoken. It is unsurprising, then, that many children on hearing the truth begin to believe God is a myth too. While children do eventually relinquish their literal belief in Santa, their capacity for faith in a higher, transcendent power is not lost just because Santa proves to be mortal. Children who no longer believed in Santa generally found out by themselves around age 7 and reported largely positive reactions on learning the truth. Parents described predominantly sad reactions to their child's discovery (Mayes & Cohen, 1992).
Some parents believe that even this storytelling is dishonest in a dichotomous world of truth and untruth. Some psychoanalysts believe that Santa is a harmful lie that threatens a child's trust and that confiscating Santa once a child believes in him is like stealing his transitional object.
The effect of modern technology on the social milieu has seen, in part at least, the relegation of fairy tales from family life. Legendary figures, including Santa Claus, provide a sense of magic useful in offsetting the powerful effects of a technological society where children mature intellectually earlier (Clark, 1995). The sense that society is safe and fun can be promoted by introducing children imaginatively to the life of make-believe characters like Santa (Prentice, 1978). It is difficult to imagine a childhood without fictional characters since our own imaginations were nurtured by them and, at times, they seemed more real than some of the adults around us. It is for these reasons that parents should be aware of the benefits for their own and future generations of children of cherishing the magic of Santa. He is a symbol of hope and belief in him teaches children the values of role models, family bonding and sharing, as well as promoting cognitive benefits. If families allow Santa and all his finery to fade into obscurity, we may deny future generations of a fantasy that may be valuable to their cognitive and social development.
If I might ask, do you have any alternatives.
I guess we could just put them in front of a television set and make the watch all the "truthful" things it has to offer.
But I will get back to my orginal question; what would you suggest as an alternative that could, at least temporarily, offer a child more happiness than what those two events offer?
Now don't get me wrong, I understand what you are saying, but I was a child who believed in this sort of stuff until I was well into my 20's. Of course I knew better, but I was ready to kill the person who would dare tell my folks I was the wiser. I wasn't going to kill the goose that layed the golden egg. Ha Ha. Just kidding. Though I did have a fight with a kid down the street when I was about 5 or 6 who was going to do just that. I won that one.
Sure, don't lie - don't build your children when at their most vulnerable stage in life to believe in something you know is false, wrong, misleading and damaging.
Why add to it by building the young hearts up to expect this "overall justice when ya do good" when, in fact, there is none?