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Media Release

December 14 2007

When the secret about Santa is discovered

Jasmine with SantaYoung children from all over the world believe in Santa Klaus, St Nick or Father Christmas, just as they believe in the tooth fairy.

With Santa getting so much coverage in the media, and with reinforcement from parents, children from a very young age believe in Father Christmas and this belief remains intact for both boys and girls until about the age of seven or eight, according to UniSA’s senior lecturer in psychology and counselling, Dr Nadine Pelling.

“Believing in Father Christmas lets children feel that there is a really good, generous and loving person out there,” Dr Pelling said.

“But when children start to realise, understand and discover that Father Christmas is not real, they are rather proud about their discovery – that they’ve unlocked a big secret. They think it’s pretty cool that they’ve been able to figure this out,” Dr Pelling said.

“I always find it fascinating that it’s usually the parents who are sad, not the kids, when this discovery is made. A lot of parents think that their children are going to be devastated and so sad when their children find out (and a few kids might feel sad), but it’s mostly the parents who are sad because, for them Father Christmas is a licence for fantasy and beautiful times with their children,” she said.

“If their parents believed in Santa past the age of 10 years, then their children also are more likely to believe in Santa beyond the age of eight years. And even when they know that he’s not real, most children still find the ‘idea’ of Santa as something pleasing that helps them enjoy Christmas.

“In parenting, we would suggest that once children make this discovery, parents look at new ways of doing things at Christmas. Instead of writing letters to Santa and sitting on Santa’s lap, maybe we could get the children involved in wrapping presents for wishing trees that support disadvantaged families, or singing Christmas carols and bringing Christmas cheer to sick children and the elderly in hospitals and nursing homes.”

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