Friday, December 18, 2020

Santa and Covid

Let me preface this post by saying that I think it is essential to be honest with people in your lives. You don’t need to knock them over the head with the truth, but if they ask a direct question and press for an answer, please don’t lie. Over the years several parents have asked me to weigh in on the ‘Santa discussion.’ What is the best way to keep the magic alive while not endangering the trust that is so important in any relationship? For this general discussion about Santa, we can put him into the fine company of the Tooth Fairy and the Easter Bunny, but it is safe to say that Santa is usually the member of this trio that has the most emotional connection. The Covid pandemic has added an extra layer to the conversation. This year some kids are worried that Santa will either have issues with social distancing or have trouble taking the time to wash his hands in between the houses that he visits. Talk about a potential 'Super Spreader'! In my Jewish family, the girls never gave too much thought to the man in the red hat or the giant bunny, but we did get routine visits from the tooth fairy every time the girls lost a tooth. When I wrote this post a few years ago, I checked in with my grown girls to see if they remembered any feeling of betrayal when they realized that it was daddy sneaking the money under the pillow. Lauren tried hard to remember. She vaguely recalls that she figured it out reasonably early, but played along for several years. She wanted to make sure that the gravy train didn’t dry up. Alana says that she was too busy trying to figure out if monsters were real or not (thanks to having a big sister who teased her by making strange noises in the middle of the night) to worry too much about the Tooth Fairy. For the young kids who ask if the mythical creature is real, if you want to extend the magic for another year, you might deflect the questions fairly easily without telling a falsehood. A simple, “What do you think?” works pretty well. Or, “It is fun to believe in magic sometimes and Santa is part of the holiday magic” Keep in mind that once your child gets to kindergarten believing that Santa is actually going to try to fit down your chimney, rather than the ‘spirit of the holiday magic,' they might be in for a shocking disappointment when they learn the truth. There are lots of kids at school, even virtually, who are eager to share the cold hard facts with your innocent child. It is much better if this discussion comes from you before your kids find out a harder way. I spoke to several people who recounted that they believed in Santa with all of their hearts and were completely devastated when they learned the truth. They felt deceived. One person told me that finding the truth was the moment they stopped believing in all magic. How sad! Letting them know the truth gently doesn’t have to be a negative experience. For older kids, I love a good story. Many stories start with an element of historical truth: “Once upon a time in a far off country there was a man named Nicholas. He loved to do good things for other people. What was special about him is that when he gave people presents or did nice things, he didn’t do it because he wanted something in return. He simply wanted to do good things. Lots of times he did it in secret and no one even knew who did something nice for them. Maybe this Nicholas was big and jolly and had a white beard. He became known as Santa Claus. Santa is a symbol of love and magic and hope and happiness. He teaches children how to believe in something that they can’t see or touch. I am on his holiday kindness team and now you can be too. Really little children might believe that there is one Santa who manages to be everywhere at once. Big kids like you get to know the secret. Team Santa is all the big kids and grown ups who want to help make other people happy. “ Perhaps take the opportunity to help your child be an active member of this awesome team; an initiation of sorts. Is there someone in your life that seems like they need a little kindness? What could you do for them? Is there a little gift that might make a difference? Plotting a secret kindness is the thing that wonderful lasting holiday memories are made of.  PS: Even when Covid is no longer an issue, the photo on Santa's Lap should be voluntary. If your child isn't eager to go sit on a strange guy's lap, please don't force them. If the kids are up for it, there are places that are making socially distanced Santa Visits possible this year.

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