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Lying About Santa May be Damaging to Your Kids, Study Says

Nov 24, 2016 02:37 AM EST
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With Christmas just around the corner, have you been asking your kids if they've been naughty or nice, or letting them hang their own Christmas stockings for Santa to fill with presents? While these things are without a doubt super fun and exciting, especially for children, experts say that the Santa lie may actually do more harm than good.

In a paper published in the Lancet Psychiatry, psychologist Christopher Boyle and mental health researcher Kathy McKay, suggest that telling kids that Santa or Father Christmas is real may actually lead children to be distrustful of their parents in the future.

Professor Boyle, of the University of Exeter, says in a news release, "The morality of making children believe in such myths has to be questioned. All children will eventually find out they've been consistently lied to for years, and this might make them wonder what other lies they've been told. Whether it's right to make children believe in Father Christmas is an interesting question, and it's also interesting to ask whether lying in this way will affect children in ways that have not been considered."

The authors, however, also acknowledged that occasionally lying to children may be appropriate. "An adult comforting a child and telling them that their recently deceased pet will go to a special place (animal heaven) is arguably nicer than telling graphic truths about its imminent re-entry into the carbon cycle," they said.

Dr. McKay also offers an explanation as to why adults get into the trend of perpetuating fictitious characters like Father Christmas. "The persistence of fandom in stories like Harry Potter, Star Wars and Doctor Who well into adulthood demonstrates this desire to briefly re-enter childhood. Many people may yearn for a time when imagination was accepted and encouraged, which may not be the case in adult life," she said.

The paper concluded with a thought-provoking question: "Might it be the case that the harshness of real life requires the creation of something better, something to believe in, something to hope for in the future or to return to a long-lost childhood a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away?"

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