Occasionally, you may talk with people who say they do not believe in telling children about Santa Claus, the tooth fairy, the Easter bunny, or even fairy tales. Their idea is to be truthful. Should your children be exposed to nursery rhymes and fairy tales? Should they engage in fantasy? Yes, fantasy is not only harmless, but important in developing your child’s imagination and creativity. As you talk with your child about fantasies and fairy tales, tell her fairy tales are fairy tales, fantasy is fantasy, and neither are true. The ability to discriminate between real and unreal, between those times when people are telling you how it really is and when they are “putting you on,” is important. Fantasies and fairy tales help your child make these discriminations. In addition, involvement in fantasy and fairy tales allows your child to imagine and dream, and create new worlds. Most innovative and creative adults were great fantasizers as children.
Encouraging your young children to believe in Santa Claus, the tooth fairy, the Easter bunny, and so on represents a slightly different type of parenting opportunity. Should these myths be perpetuated? Again, yes, (if you value the experience) they are fun, are very meaningful to your children, and become an important part of their childhoods they remember. Santa Claus and the tooth fairy are positive notions for your children and do not have any negative consequences. Lets look briefly at a few positive aspects of Santa Claus and the tooth fairy.
For your young children, magic is a convenient explanation for most anything they do not understand. Santa Claus and his magic represent a reasonable explanation to your toddler and preschooler for Christmas toys. Once a grade schooler, your child quickly raises doubt about the existence of Santa Claus. To suggest your child cannot understand the myth of Santa Claus, or will continue to hold distorted notions of reality reflects a misunderstanding of the mental ability and perceptive skill of your grade schooler. The spirit of Santa Claus lives in us all and our childhood experience has led us to want to give occasionally without receiving. The myth of Santa Claus is one way you can help instill such values in your children.
The tooth fairy simply takes lost teeth and leaves money. Is there any harm in this myth? No. Your children learn by the time they are seven or eight the magic of the tooth fairy comes from Mom or Dad’s coin purse. While your child is still a true believer, the tooth fairy adds a little fun to the process of losing baby teeth.
Parents occasionally ask what to do if they forget to put money under the pillow or are unable to find the tooth. Your child finds it quite acceptable if you say the tooth fairy must have been too busy, and will perhaps stop by the following night. Also, it is quite easy to go into your child’s room and pretend to find the money someplace other than where she had expected it, and simply tell her the tooth fairy must have been in a hurry and didn’t have time to put the money under the pillow. What about the teeth too far under the pillow to risk awakening your child? Sometimes, the tooth fairy has more teeth than she needs. Can your child still leave the same tooth under the pillow again? No. The tooth fairy pays up only once.
As you can see, the involvement of your child in fantasy, fairy tales, myths and magical beings and so on is fun and has no negative consequences. In fact, the consequences contribute significantly to your child’s lifelong creativity, imagination, and overall ability to think beyond the present and beyond the particular reality within which he lives. In addition, your child who has been exposed to Santa Claus, the tooth fairy, and other such myths has the opportunity to learn part of the world in which he believed implicitly was not the way he thought it was. To a small extent, this makes him a little skeptical, a little less gullible, and a little less likely to take things on faith. Also, he learns even Mom and Dad may be wrong, and may tell him things that aren’t completely true. A little skepticism is healthy and productive.