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Celebrate the meaning of Christmas with your children
Article in images

Father Christmas real, Santa exist


Small children are quick to quiz their parents about the existence of Father Christmas. Should you shatter their illusions?

Children need to believe in fantasies, even late on in childhood: a child's psyche is structured by an all-powerful belief in magic ('anything is possible, so I can do anything'). Believing in Santa is important not only because Santa is a positive paternal figure, but also because his arrival every year is a comforting ritual that gives a child's world structure. Christmas comes but once a year, and for once they are allowed to ask for whatever they want without feeling guilty because they think mum and dad aren't paying! 

So is it ironic that you have to place a limit on the number of gifts Santa brings? Not in the slightest. Just explain that Father Christmas can't give every child everything he or she wants because he can only fit so much in his sleigh (he's old and has a bad back, etc). This is fine while children are still small enough to accept any explanation you offer them - such is their desire to believe in Santa.

In most cases, the first seeds of doubt are sown at around the age of 6, around the time a child starts school (if a big brother, sister or friend hasn't already broken the news, that is). Children are also quick to pick up on what they see on their screens and in adverts, and soon put two and two together. 

Wait until your child brings up the issue or asks you directly whether Father Christmas is real or not. Ask what he or she thinks, and then explain why you've 'lied': the story of Father Christmas is exciting for little children, but when they grow up they learn the truth. Make sure they don't go sounding off to other children who haven't yet been enlightened! If you ask them not to say anything, it makes them feel like they're in on a grown-up secret and helps them to swallow the truth. And don't forget to reassure them that they'll still get presents on Christmas Day! 


Sarah Horrocks
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