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Is there a Santa Claus? Dos and don'ts to tell kids about their imaginary friend

Updated: Dec 28, 2022

According to K. Christou (2022) who wrote on the daily website "kathimerini" every year children in Italy wait for Epiphany day to see if the old witch named Befana will leave them gifts or... coals in their Christmas stocking in case they were bad kids.

Similarly, children in Poland are asked to "take care" of a painted log from December 8 so that it reveals the gifts to them. However, most children around the world, every year at this time continue to wait for the Santa Claus that we all love and remember as the good-natured grandfather with the red clothes and the white beard.

Unfortunately, many times the feeling that follows Santa Claus or La Befana is not anticipation but confirmation of correct behavior. This myth of the "good child" associated with gifts, and the "bad child" who gets coal or even... nothing, is the "nightmare" of the little ones and the childhood "trauma" of the adults.

At the same time, this anticipation of the imaginary friend (which in many cases takes on the flesh and blood of the parents) opens up a discussion about the limits of truth and lies, good and evil. "It is generally wrong for parents to call their child good or bad. There is no such thing as a bad or a good child, there are good or bad deeds and it is preferable for parents to maintain this attitude in general", says psychologist-child psychologist Antigoni Ginopoulou speaking to "K.

She describes as problematic the fact that Santa Claus often appears as a punisher. "Santa Claus is a dear person. However, many times parents use other persons in order to "threaten" their children, such as Santa Claus, an evil witch or something else", underlines Ms. Ginopoulou, stressing that the parent should be the one to impose the punishment to his child and not someone else, let alone imaginary. The general attitude of child psychologists is that Santa Claus is a person who gives love only.

Santa brings love, not affirmation

"Santa Claus is a man of giving. The message he sends to a child is that he offers him a gift because he loves him and thus shows his love. She doesn't give him a gift to confirm that he is a good boy", states the psychologist-child psychologist Alexandra Kappatou speaking to "K". But how do parents handle the moment their child comes close to finding out the truth about the dear old man who brings the presents? Is there any guidance so that the child is not disappointed, or is it a matter to which we often give more attention than is necessary.

"First of all, let's say that it is very normal for the child to believe in Santa Claus, as in the context of his development he considers that he has imaginary friends and that he plays with them. Essentially, imaginary friends give the child an emotional security and offer him control over the game", says Mrs. Ginopoulou, emphasizing that this usually lasts until 7-8 years. "The most common thing is for the child to bring home the information that there is no Santa Claus from school. If this happens, then we talk to our child, we are honest and tell him the truth", she says, pointing out that the parents' tactic of maintaining a lie is not the appropriate one.

The truth about Santa cannot spoil the parent-child relationship

Mrs. Ginopoulou believes that the best solution is for the parents to explain to their children that they wanted to give them joy through a tradition that has been preserved for years and of course to tell them that they will continue to get them gifts every year. "The myth of Santa Claus cannot spoil the child's relationship with his parent. What interests us is how many years the child is young to wait for Santa Claus and to feel joy and love", he emphasizes. For her part, Mrs. Kappatou believes that the teacher can also contribute to this transitional stage where the child realizes that there is no Santa Claus.

"It's only a matter of time before children learn that there is no Santa Claus when they start elementary school, and of course it is reasonable for a child to be disappointed when he finds out that there is no Santa Claus," says Ms. Kappatou. "Usually children at the age of 4-5 years start and have a lot of questions about Santa Claus. So if we see that the child has doubts about his existence, we could ask him the question "what do you believe?", in order to see if he is ready or not to accept the truth", she says.

Teacher-parent cooperation

"I think that if the child starts the first grade and still believes in Santa Claus, then it is better for the parents to tell him the truth when the ground is suitable. They can do this in collaboration with the teacher or the teacher at school. In any case, the communication between the parent and the teacher during that period can only have positive results", he says.

Letter to Santa at 12?

Mrs. Kappatou also points out that there are children aged 10-12 who like to send a letter to Santa every year. "If this happens, it is not alarming, as long as there is contact with reality. That is, it is not problematic for a 10-12 year old child to know the truth, but to maintain a part of his childishness and carelessness. What should concern us is if the child refuses to accept the truth and avoids reality", he concludes.

Retrieved from:

H kathimerini

Christou S. (2022) Does Santa Claus Exist? Dos and Don'ts to tell kids about their imaginary friend (online). Available in the online newspaper: -toys-filo/ (retrieved 26 December 2022).

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