In this age of commercialization, how do we teach our kids the true meaning of Christmas? Perhaps you’re a parent who is considering telling your children the truth about Santa this year. This can be a tricky subject, especially when determining the appropriate age. In an article by Good Housekeeping, Caroline Picard describes a story about a parent who tells her child that Santa Claus exists in all of us, and it’s their time to become “a Santa” by giving an anonymous gift to someone they love, teaching the lesson of unselfish giving.
“In our family, we have a special way of transitioning the kids from receiving from Santa to becoming a Santa. This way, the Santa construct is not a lie that gets discovered, but an unfolding series of good deeds and Christmas spirit. When they are 6 or 7, whenever you see that dawning suspicion that Santa may not be a material being, that means the child is ready.”
It’s important to show children how to give to others, and there are many opportunities to do this during the holidays. Studies, such as one published in Psychological Science, show that young children possess the instinct to share and help others. A study published in PLoS One even found that toddlers enjoy giving to others more than they
like getting treats for themselves. This is solid proof that humans are inherently programmed to give to others and materialism is a learned trait.
There are several ways we can show our kids that giving to others makes them feel good, without expecting anything in return. It’s crucial that children feel a sense of autonomy when making the choice to give back to others. In fact, a study published in Development Psychology discovered that if toddlers were rewarded for helping others, they were less likely to do so next time around. In other words, although altruism comes natural for children, coercion in any form has adverse effects on this instinct. The decision to give must be from the bottom of their hearts, not because of pressure from external influences.
Santa embodies this in so many ways. Young children can be shown how selflessly Santa gives without receiving anything in return (except for a few cookies and milk, perhaps), and
they can also experience the high of giving to others by giving gifts to others. This is an opportune time to show them how there are others less fortunate, and how far their kindness can go, not only with the recipient of their gifts, but in their own hearts.
For those whose perspectives on Santa are maturing, the holidays become an opportunity to better understand magic–the magic of loved ones who make wishes that might otherwise seem impossible come true, and the magic within themselves when they embody the spirit of the season, become Santa, and make the world a little brighter through their selflessness.
May the light of our youth carry you through this holiday season.
Merry Christmas from all of Santa’s elves here at Mind Key.