It’s often a friend or parent who breaks the delusion of kindergarten or elementary school children regarding Santa Claus and tells the truth about Saint Nick. But at a New Jersey school, it was a teacher who told first-grade school students that Santa – and other fairy-taleChristmas symbols and animals –don’t exist in reality. Her candor angered parents and the school thought the teacher had ruined the “childhood innocence of the holiday season.”
How do you judge the teacher? She probably went a little too far in educating the children on the myth surrounding Santa, reindeer, the Elf on the Shelf, etc. She should have waited to get signals from children to answer the big question. I remember how once I wanted to tell my daughter, Trisha, all about the Santa myth. I wanted to tell her Santa doesn’t exist; it’s a mere figment of human imagination. But, deep in my heart, I wished she would continue to believe the magic of Santa, expecting that he would tip-toe in when she was asleep and drop a lovely toy into the stocking suspended from the four-poster bunker bed and quietly slip away. It’s a conflict that many parents have to deal with. I, on my wife’s counsel, decided to wait – perhaps a few years– when Trisha would be old enough to suspect the verity of the Santa story.
For some parents, it’s okay to tell the white lie about Santa because they want their kids to believe in the magic of Santa: it doesn’t harm children to indulge in fantasy.
There is no right time to disclose to children the truth behind the secret, experts say. The important thing is to take the cues from the child and “not try to prolong the fantasy for your own enjoyment when they may be ready to give it up,” says Glen Elliott, Ph.D. Elliot, associate professor and the Director of the Department of Child and Adolescent Psychology at the University of California. Another expert, child psychologist, Helen Egger, says that when children begin to suspect that Santa may not be real, it’s time to discuss with them the logic behind the Santa myth.
As for my own daughter, she outgrew her belief in Santa on her own as she grew up beyond second grade. My wife and I didn’t have to bust the myth or explain the logic. The issue turned out to be easy. A consultation with one’s spouse helps to resolve the quandary.
The Cedar Hill School teacher should have consulted with her colleagues, given the sensitivity of parents and children. A parent, clearly miffed, said, ““A grown woman tried to crush our [6-year-old]'s spirit, along with the spirits of the other 22 kids in CH’s 1st Grade class.”
Before elaborating on the topic, the teacher could have had a word with a trusted colleague or the school principal. The teacher used “poor judgement,” according to the school’s principal, who sent a letter to parents so they could“take appropriate steps to maintain the childhood innocence of the holiday season.”
Our festivals, especially the religious ones, are dear to us. They signify tradition and symbol. And parents are sensitive about what children learn early in life at school. The teacher jumped the gun; she should have held back. She should have perhaps let the children’s parents or friends do the honors.