Why psychologists say parents should not tell kids the truth about Santa this Christmas

Being honest about the myth of Father Christmas in 2020 during the coronavirus lockdown could be damaging to children, a psychologist has warned.

Thursday, 3rd December 2020, 12:42 pm

Dr Chris Boyle, who is an expert on children’s experiences of Christmas magic and myth, said it is especially important to keep the magic of Santa Claus alive, at least for this year.

His usual advice for parents is that it can be psychologically harmful to lie to children, especially when it comes to the Santa myth.

But compounding the events of 2020 with the knowledge that Santa is not real could be even more stressful for some children and he is calling on families to “maintain the collective myth” for one more year.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

Parents have been encouraged to keep the belief in Father Christmas alive this year.

Dr Boyle, from the University of Exeter, has been analysing the results of his Santa Survey, which has been completed by more than 4,200 people around the world.

“The Covid Christmas of 2020 brings so much uncertainty and misery, there is an argument it has never been a greater time to indulge in the escapism of Santa,” he said.

“Christmas is a time of magic, where children believe in implausible things, including Santa – adults, and older children, wish they could believe too. Who can blame them, especially in 2020?

“My survey results reveal there are many ways where parents can expose the Santa myth by mistake. The main slip-up beset by parents is being caught in the act.”

Some examples of parents’ errors contributed by people who completed the survey include:

– “Dad was tipsy when setting out the presents and disturbed my sleep, so I heard him drop them” (11-year-old, England)

– “I caught my parents drinking and eating what we had put out for Santa and the reindeer” (10-year-old, England)

Many children also wanted to know how Santa entered the house, and parents’ inability to answer successfully led to children discovering the truth:

– “I knew it was impossible for such a fat man to fit down the chimney” (seven-year-old, US)

– “Grandpa’s house had a fireplace. It was turned on and when I woke up, the presents were there but no dead Santa” (three-year-old, Germany)