MONDAY, Dec. 24 (HealthDay News) -- Children should be allowed to believe in Santa Claus as long as they want, an expert says.
There is no particular age at which a child should stop believing in Santa and children will often arrive at the truth themselves as they grow older, according to Jared Durtschi, an assistant professor in the marriage and family therapy program at Kansas State University in Manhattan.
"I don't think it's necessary for parents to decide upon a time to tell their children there is no Santa," Durtschi said in a university news release. "As children develop, the magical thinking that is so common in kids, which allows them to so readily accept all the details of Santa Claus, will give way and they will soon figure it out on their own."
By telling children the truth about Santa Claus before they work it out for themselves, parents might put a damper on their children's excitement about Christmas.
"Christmas tends to be more fun for those kids who believe in Santa compared to those who do not," Durtschi said. "It may be unnecessary to spoil the excitement for the child until they outgrow the belief."
Many children go through a transition period where they still have some belief in Santa or want to believe in him, even as they begin to realize that the idea is impossible. During this period, children's ideas about Santa can fluctuate.
"They may believe one day, not believe the next day and then decide they believe in Santa again next week after watching a Christmas movie," Durtschi said. "Just because a child is showing signs of doubt does not mean he or she has completely made the transition to disbelief in Santa."
During this transition period, Durtschi said, parents should ask their children a neutral, open-ended question ("What do you think about Santa Claus?" for example) rather than a more leading question, such as, "Do you still believe in Santa?"
Here's where you can find out how and why NORAD tracks Santa as he makes his Christmas deliveries.
-- Robert Preidt
SOURCE: Kansas State University, news release, December 2012
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