Is it better to give children fantasies and crush them later, or tell them the truth from the start?
Once upon a time most of us believed in Santa, the Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy. Some kids never did. Does it make a difference to give kids fantasies, or is it better to never tell them?
I can remember that as a kid I heard about the Tooth Fairy and Santa, but I always knew that they were just ideas, and it was really my family that put gifts labeled “Santa” under the tree, and it was Grandma who put quarters under my pillow when I lost a tooth. I wasn’t encouraged to indulge in these old-time fantasies, but I turned out just fine. I’m still creative, I still enjoy fantasy, and I don’t feel I really missed out on anything except the crushing blow of finding out none of those mystical beings were real.
Some parents insist that Santa and the Easter Bunny and all those mythical beings are a crucial part of childhood, and a youngster will be somehow damaged by not having those thoughts and experiences. Some parents hand down the stories and beliefs out of habit, and some are dead set against them. It makes one wonder if it really makes any difference at all.
I’m not a parent myself, but I’ve talked to parents who dread the day when they will have to tell their kids that there is no Santa, or worse, they’ll find out from some kid at school and come home in tears begging mom and dad to say it isn’t so. Dispelling the myths that parents have filled their children’s heads with seems to be a dreaded and traumatic event for both parents and children alike.
I understand that one wants their kids to experience joy and wonder for as long as possible before it all comes crashing down in the harshness of reality. However, isn’t it possible to give them this without lying to them? Can’t we tell them that Santa was once real, and is still a dearly held idea, and presents bearing his name are a way to give a special surprise? Can’t we still put coins under their pillow without telling them that some ethereal fairy left them there? Can’t we still give them the joy of fantasy in books, movies and fairytale stories?
I wonder if the benefit of youthful fantasies truly outweighs the hard blow of finding out none of it was real. I would think that finding out your parents lied to you and everything you believed in was just make-believe would be far more traumatic than already knowing about what’s real and what’s not. As I said, it never had a negative effect on me or the few people I know who were told the truth early on.
In the end I suppose it’s up to a parent what they will teach their children, but I do hope they go into it knowing what the pros and cons of each choice would be, rather than just doing it out of habit and trying not to think about the day when they’ll have to explain it all and deal with a sobbing little child who’s world of wonder has just been thrashed.