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Tell kids the truth about Santa Claus

Parents, you should stop lying to your children about Santa Claus.

Studies show that more than 80 percent of young children believe in Santa. Belief in Santa drops off dramatically after children turn eight, but parents always should be upfront about St. Nicholas.

Start with the importance of trust. Imagine being a 7-year old whose friend tells him that Santa is pretend. “No way,” says your child. There’s some circumstantial evidence that Santa exists. Your son has sat on his lap and opened Christmas presents from him. But the trump card is this: You, his parent, told him so. Who’s he going to believe — his friend or his parents? More importantly, whom do you want him to believe?

As a parent, you have to shepherd your child through a host of things that don’t make sense to the immature and uneducated mind. The importance of brushing your teeth. That jumping off the roof is wrong no matter how fun it seems. Don’t talk to strangers.

It’s much easier to get those messages to stick if your child trusts you. Deliberately lying to your child — even for fun — sends the message that he was a sucker to trust mommy and daddy. Lying about Santa doesn’t mean a child will never trust his parents, but it doesn’t help.

What’s more, you can have the best of both worlds, because young kids love to pretend. Four-year-olds have imaginary friends. A 6-year-old can turn a cardboard box into a rocket ship, clubhouse and race car in the span of 10 minutes. Take advantage.

Tell your kids about Santa, but say it’s something you do just for fun. Kids can know the truth and still enjoy taking a picture with Santa or mailing a wish list to the North Pole.

If you’re worried that’ll stop your kids from getting excited about Christmas, go watch a child’s birthday party. There’s no jolly man in a red suit, but the birthday girl still can’t wait to start unwrapping. Her parents will have to remind her to open the card before the gift, because she’s more interested in the toy than who sent it. It takes even more work to get a child to say, “Thank you,” before she dives into another present.

Do you really think that your child won’t be excited to open a gift if she knows it came from you and wasn’t made by elves? News flash: She’s interested in the presents, not the story of their origin.

That’s the selfish benefit of being honest about Santa. As a parent, you work hard to find and pay for gifts your children will like. You’re going to give credit for that to someone who doesn’t exist? You should at least have the socks and underwear come from Santa and the cool gifts come from you, their parents.

This doesn’t mean you should emulate the New Jersey substitute teacher who was fired last week for telling first-graders that Santa isn’t real. Breaking the news about Santa, like explaining where babies come from, is best left to a child’s parents.

But tell your own kids the truth: Santa isn’t real, but it’s fun to pretend he is. It won’t change how merry your Christmas is by one bit.

Victor Joecks’ column appears in the Opinion section each Sunday, Wednesday and Friday. Listen to him discuss his columns each Monday at 9 a.m. with Kevin Wall on 790 Talk Now. Contact him at vjoecks@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-4698. Follow @victorjoecks on Twitter.

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