Stories about Father Christmas can damage the relationship between children and their parents, academics have suggested.
Clinical psychologist Dr Kathy McKay and psychology professor Christopher Boyle have claimed that the children’s trust can be permanently damaged, leaving them feeling “abject disappointment”.
The Santa story is “such an involved lie, such a long-lasting one, between parents and children, that if a relationship is vulnerable, this may be the final straw” Dr McKay warned. After all, if a child’s parents “can lie so convincingly and over such a long time, what else can they lie about?”
In their article, the two said these can lead children to have questions like:
“If Santa isn’t real, are fairies real? Is magic? Is God?”
The revelation of the deception has the potential to cause serious damage to children, they claimed, but so can the belief itself. Some parents use the story “as a tool of control when they’re under a bit of pressure in the lead-up to Christmas” Professor Boyle explained. This is “potentially not the best parenting method” as it can give children the idea that “a mythical being [decides] whether you’re getting presents or not”.
Boyle and McKay suggested the story has been perpetuated by adults for their own benefit rather than for their children. The “desire to briefly re-enter childhood” can also be found in the adult fandoms of stories like Harry Potter, Star Wars and Doctor Who, McKay insisted. These all exhibit a yearning “for a time when imagination was accepted and encouraged” especially in the face of the “harshness of real life”.
The full article, titled A Wonderful Lie, was published in the academic journal Lancet Psychiatry.