What Should You Tell Your Children About Santa?

By Marisa Thomas ’22, November 30, 2018
Psychology professor Cyndy Scheibe says it’s OK to let your kids believe in Kris Kringle.

Christmas is right around the corner, which means questions about Santa Claus are coming to town. In a recent article in Popular Science, Cyndy Scheibe, a professor in the Department of Psychology at Ithaca College, discusses the repercussions of going along with the myth or revealing the truth about Saint Nick. She has been researching children’s belief in Santa for more than 30 years, and she said the story isn’t harmful, at least when children are young.

Scheibe says that in most cases, parents don't cause trauma or psychological harm when they let their children believe in Santa, up to a point.

“From what I could tell, that’s most likely to occur when the child is told outright, without asking, or when the parents continue perpetuating the myth when the child is ready to let go,” Scheibe said.

The key, she explains, is being honest with older children once they start to question the idea of the man in the red suit, usually when they’re around 7 or 8 years old and their critical thinking skills are starting to develop.