Lying to kids about Santa could be damaging

We recommend little ones look away now.
Santa 'lie' could be a problem for children

Mums and dads who encourage their children to believe in Father Christmas could run the risk of affecting future parent-child relationships, according to a new study.

The article, published in the the journal Lancet Psychiatry, suggests that this little white lie – although seemingly harmless – could prove problematic down the track once the truth is revealed.

Psychologists behind the research, Christopher Boyle and Kathy McKay, claim lying to children, even about something so fun and frivolous, could undermine a child’s ability to trust their parents later on.

“If [parents] are capable of lying about something so special and magical, can they be relied upon to continue as the guardians of wisdom and truth?”

The psychologists also said encouraging children to believe in a mythical figure who judges children as naughty or nice, could be seen as morally questionable.

“The morality of making children believe in such myths has to be questioned,” said Professor Boyle, of the University of Exeter.

“All children will eventually find out they’ve been consistently lied to for years, and this might make them wonder what other lies they’ve been told.

WATCH: What matters most at Christmas. Story continues after the video

Loading the player...

“Whether it’s right to make children believe in Father Christmas is an interesting question, and it’s also interesting to ask whether lying in this way will affect children in ways that have not been considered.”

It’s not all Grinch-y bad news though. The authors did concede that some white lies aren’t always bad for kids.

“An adult comforting a child and telling them that their recently deceased pet will go to a special place (animal heaven) is arguably nicer than telling graphic truths about its imminent re-entry into the carbon cycle,” they wrote in the journal.

A psychologist commenting on the report, Dr Danielle Jackson, disagreed with the claims, saying there were greater threats to the moral compass of youth than Santa.

“In fact, the presence of Santa may make children think more about their behaviour, rather than less,” she told the Huffington Post UK.

Jackson said the benefits of believing in Santa include the sense of “ritual and shared magic” at Christmas that can bring a family together.

Related stories

Get your favourite magazines home delivered!  

Subscribe and save up to 38% on a magazine subscription.