I’ve mentioned the fact that Santa has made me a bit uncomfortable at times. First in my pre-kids life, when my then-boyfriend and I threw around the idea of avoiding Santa altogether (back before we knew anything). And now that I’m a parent, I have my minor issues with the red-suited man. I try and avoid the “Santa is watching you and he won’t give you cool stuff if you’re bad” message because it implies that:
A) You’re bad if you do bad things
B) You should be well-behaved because you want stuff (not because being well-behaved is expected and right)
C) Santa is vindictive and a little bit creepy — peeking in at you when you’re sleeping and watching while you’re awake.
That being said, I have a 4-year-old boy who ended his letter to Santa with, “I believe in you and Christmas Spirit every day. I love you.” If that doesn’t make your heart swell just a tad, you might be dead inside. And I’d be lying if I said we didn’t use Santa as a threat from time to time. We’re only human — and, my gosh, it works.
So for the anti-Santa among us, I feel you. I’ve been there.
For the Santa Believers, I feel you as well. In fact, I’m firmly Team Santa. And let me tell all of you anti-Santa parents why kids should believe in Santa…
Why It’s Good for Kids to Believe in Santa 1 of 12
There are some parents who never question the existence of Santa. There's no "will we or won't we?" struggle because Santa is a given. It's part of being a child! How dare you deprive a child of that magic!
I am not that parent.
And so I've carefully analyzed the situation (as I do everything) and I've firmly landed on the side of Santa. Let me count the ways...
1. It Engages Imagination 2 of 12
When it comes to imagination and pretend play, I see so much of myself in my son. He lives in make-believe worlds of good guys and bad guys — of magical creatures where anything is possible with fairy dust. And if there's anything that sparks imagination, it's a workshop of elves, a magical sleigh, and the distant sound of reindeer hooves on a roof. To this day, I vividly remember lying in bed — wound up with anticipation — with soft twinkling lights reflecting through my bedroom blinds. I remember willing myself to hear sleigh bells and a gentle click-clack above my head. I remember being lost in imagination.
If there's anything that can nurture that imaginative, creative side of a child, I'm in. All in.
2. Believing in Something Bigger Than Themselves 3 of 12
I think it's so important for kids to have a sense of something bigger — a community, a universe, an omnipresent presence. And if you don't belong to a specific organized religion (which really shines in this department), the myth of Santa Claus gives kids a reason to look up in the sky and feel something bigger than themselves.
3. Believing Without Total Proof 4 of 12
I found this answer from a mom to her child, written after her child figured out the "truth" about Santa. It was originally published in The New York Times and I think it perfectly sums up why it can be good for kids to believe in Santa:
"[Santa] teaches children how to have belief in something they can't see or touch. It's a big job, and it's an important one. Throughout your life, you will need this capacity to believe: in yourself, in your friends, in your talents, and in your family. You'll also need to believe in things you can't measure or even hold in your hand. Here, I am talking about love, that great power that will light your life from the inside out, even during its darkest, coldest moments."
She goes on to describe Santa as a teacher, and that he continues to reach children through all of the people whose hearts he's filled with joy (read: parents who help fill stockings). She ends it with, "Santa is love and magic and hope and happiness. I'm on his team, and now you are, too."
4. A Lesson in Critical Thinking 5 of 12
At the same time, Santa could also be a lesson in critical thinking. "Congratulations!" you might say. "You passed the first test in critical thinking!" Think of it as a coming-of-age milestone. A torch passed, if you will.
5. Childhood Memories 6 of 12
Here's the thing: I remember believing, and then I remember not believing. I wasn't emotionally scarred from the lie — nor would I take back those years spent looking for a flash of reindeer through my bedroom window, and then waking up to magic. Because it was magic! Santa might not be real, but those childhood memories are very much real.
And that feeling? That childlike wonder? It's still deep inside me, down at my core. I can feel it when I look up at a splattering of stars, quietly spilling beauty and mystery. I can feel it when I meet a kindred spirit, or experience unexpected kindness. I can feel it when I look around at the intricate ecosystem we're all living in, realizing that there's something bigger. Maybe the lingering lesson from Santa is to recognize majestic mystery when it's right in front of you. You don't recognize it from what it is, you recognize it in how it feels — and how you remember it feeling as a believer.
6. The Historical Aspect 7 of 12
For parents who want to minimize the lies, Saint Nicholas was an actual person who did good deeds. He's a legend rooted in fact. Use that! It'll make you feel like less of a material-pushing liar.
7. The Spirit of Giving 8 of 12
Beyond the materialistic form that Christmas has taken, the spirit of Christmas is one of giving — historically as well as traditionally. As parents, we can play that up as much as we want! My 4-year-old boy makes presents for family members each year (just small gestures of making and giving), and we purposefully spend time donating both new and used toys to less fortunate kids. We give our time, our money, and our love.
Perhaps you don't need Santa to emphasize the spirit of giving, but it's easy to have the two go hand-in-hand. Santa is so beloved because he thoughtfully chooses presents for each child, and then spends an entire night traveling the world, simply to give.
8. Santa Is What We Say He Is 9 of 12
In our house, Santa is a kind man. He recognizes the good in each child and knows that just because you do bad things every now and then, that doesn't mean you're a bad person. He also works with each parent to set Christmas rules — like, for instance, he gives my son three gifts: something to read, something to wear, and something to play with. He also fills his stocking up with little toys and gifts. We tell our son that he's fortunate enough to get gifts throughout the year — to be surrounded by family and an abundance of toys — and so Santa only brings him a few very special gifts.
It's easy to feel trapped in the Christmas frenzy, but we're free to make the rules as we go.
9. Don’t Ruin the Fun 10 of 12
You might think this is a silly reason, but I think it's totally valid. The kids who believe in Santa aren't hurting anyone. It's all innocence and magic — pure happiness! I would never want my son to be the one who crashes through those dreams like he's shattering glass. And how much responsibility can a little kid handle, being told not to ruin the secret for everyone else?
10. It Doesn’t Last Long 11 of 12
Even though my son is just getting into the real magic of Santa, he doesn't have much time left. A few years, at most. This innocent era of childhood flies by faster than I remember it happening to myself, and so I have to ask: What's the harm? What's the harm in giving them this one brief moment of magic? In a matter of moments, he'll wake up on Christmas morning and know the truth. The elves, the reindeer, the sleigh — all fantasy. So why not cling to the magic while it's still here?
We Believe 12 of 12
...and I don't regret that decision. Not for one moment.