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Is Santa Clause Bad for Your Mental Health?

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RR SANTA BAD FOR CHILD MENTAL 2016

Santa Claus was a real person

St. Nicholas became famous for giving gifts and money to the poor. So the Santa myth is grounded in truth after all, but there’s much speculation around whether or not it is nourishing to feed children with the Santa story.

Some skeptics say telling kids about Santa is essentially lying to them and produces deleterious effects. Richard Dawkins, author of The God Delusion, argues that such fairy tales “may cause children to lack creativity.” But at the same time, the Santa myth gives kids a valuable lesson: not everything adults tell them is true.

The most extreme take a child could carry when they realize Santa isn’t real is accusing their parents of blatantly and consistently lying. Skepticism and mistrust could snowball into the child reconsidering everything their parents have ever told them, fundamentally damaging their relationship.

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On the other hand, it may not be such a negative thing for kids to believe in the myth of someone trying to make people happy, especially if it encourages good behavior. Dr. Matthew Lorber, a child psychiatrist in New York City and Santa supporter says, “Imagination is a normal part of development, and helps develop creative minds.”

Furthermore, the values Santa instills are important and inspiring, which is the whole point of the Christmas spirit.

Christmas brings families together. Some could go as far as to say that Santa reinforces these bonds. In an evermore virtual and computerized world, Santa reinforces positive habits such as writing. Handwritten letters are probably not the primary communication mode of choice for most kids anymore, but kids even now will make the effort to write letter to Santa.

Kids will eventually try to figure it out for themselves, and the Santa story will eventually come to an end. They will be able to deduce that the story doesn’t quite add up, but questioning what’s real and what’s not is a normal part of mental development.

Breaking the truth doesn’t necessarily need to be hard, it just might need to be done carefully. Dr. Lorber recommends that when children if Santa is real, ask the child back if they still believe in Santa. Parents generally have a good feel as to if their child can handle the truth, and a positive segway that reinforces the Christmas spirit may be to tell them St. Nicholas’ real story.

At the end of the day, there is no need for families to go through extreme lengths to perpetuate the Santa myth for the sake of merely making the child happy or their own enjoyment. The biggest gift Santa can give is hope, imagination, and wonder.

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One of the primary reasons that mental disorders and substance abuse so often go hand-in-hand is that drugs and alcohol can provide an escape from the pressures of mental health problems. Self-medicating is surprisingly common: you’re not alone.

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