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Teaching Kids about Imaginary Friends

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Teaching Kids about Imaginary Friends

Postby Mother Theresa » 05 Aug 2012, 16:11

Should I feel guilty about perpetuating the Santa and Tooth Fairy myths with my girl?

She's 8 years old and very bright, with a scientific mind, always examining things, questioning them, not afraid to call BS when she sees it, so I don't expect her to believe in Santa and the TF much longer (her teacher already told her whole class that neither of them exist and I feel she was an idiot to say that), but they're such lovely old traditions, and of course I told her about them years ago, so it would/will be hard to fess up that maybe they're not wholly factual.

I feel I would disappoint her greatly to make such an admission, not just breaking the spell of those fanciful creatures, but breaking her faith in me. She can always rely on me to be wise and honest and a source of wisdom, and here I deceived her for years and led her to make statements to all her friends and others in reliance on my statements, and then . . . it was all false, what a let down, what a huge disappointment.

Moreover, she knows perfectly well that God's just a myth, that some people believe Jesus came back to life after death (ha ha, what a story) and others believed in Zeus and Apollo, and others in monkey gods and dragons and unicorns and mermaids and the like but, as I said, she's got a scientific mind and treats all those fanciful tales with a great deal of scepticism. She enjoys a good yarn, so she's taken great pleasure in reading the Bible and Greek myths and so forth, but I never told her those stories were true and she's got enough sense to know that they're not.

So I feel a little hypocritical perpetuating the Santa and TF myths. Admittedly, I don't expect to be able to do so much longer, but for now I'll keep sticking coins under her pillow and marveling with her about how she was able to do that without disturbing her and Santa will certainly bring good presents for us this Christmas, but. . .

How about you? Do you try to teach your kids to believe in truth and facts and reality? Do you also deceive them with fairy tales about imaginary friends? Ever ponder the apparent discrepancy?
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Re: Teaching Kids about Imaginary Friends

Postby zender » 05 Aug 2012, 22:45

I think when they're 8, it's time to fess up if they ask. That's about the time my girls asked, "Is the Tooth Fairy real?"
I just replied, "What do you think?" They'd heard me say that enough times before; usually after I'd been pulling their legs, and they'd wondered if I was serious. Anyway, I congratulated their ability to think it through once they were pretty sure.

The "gold' coins can still go under the pillow until all the baby teeth are gone, and future presents from "Santa" will be appreciated with a wink and a smile for years.

I'm not braggin', but I figured out Santa was phony by age 6. I'm glad the ruse was not kept up any longer.

Kids are pretty good about sorting fact from fantasy, but some things can surprise . . .

I like those Ripley's-style books that point out the hard-to-believe-but-true stories or facts of nature that provide wonder to kids of all ages. My kids often check them out from the library and quiz me.

I'm continually amazed at how many adults believe (in) crazy stuff.
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Re: Teaching Kids about Imaginary Friends

Postby housecat » 06 Aug 2012, 01:03

How do you explain to your daughter that faith in anything else is bunk, but she should still have faith in you, even though you flat out lied to her simply for your own enjoyment of lovely old traditions? Gosh, MT, sounds like that's going to be a tough one.

I think your problem here isn't really anything to do with your daughter and her childhood "enjoyment" of the tooth fairy or Santa. It's more about you feeling guilty of teaching your child to question, to think critically and analytically--which are good things--but then lying to her and expecting her to trust you just the same. It’s not really her your worried about, it’s you.

We tell kids about tooth fairies to help them with the sometimes unsettling process of part of their bodies coming out/off, and new parts coming in. It can be painful, and it can be emotional for some kids. The story is meant to distract and to soothe. This is a part of a parent's job. Maybe, if she's really mature enough, you can explain this to her and help her to understand. But if she's really as bright as you think, then you are still going to come off looking a little week--because that's what you've taught her to think about anyone who believes in something they can't prove.

And I take personal exception to your laughing criticism of my faith. I respect your lack of faith. There's no reason for you to scoff at people who think and behave differently than you.
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Re: Teaching Kids about Imaginary Friends

Postby Petrichor » 06 Aug 2012, 02:07

With my two older boys I kept the Santa and Tooth Fairy stories going until they were old enough to question, which was about 8 for the eldest, and predictably he then immediately disillusioned the younger. Neither of them were traumatised by the experience and we had many exciting Christmasses before they found out the truth.

My current 8 year old has never believed in either of these myths because we didn't spin that yarn. My husband was disturbed by the deception when he was a child. He felt everyone had been lying to him all his life and now he didn't know what to believe of the things his parents told him. So I suppose it depends on the personality of the child as to how they take it. I think in our 8 year old's case we made the right decision (with hindsight) not to deceive him, as his personality is quite like his father's.

I think your intuition regarding your daughter may be correct, as parents' intuitions usually are, and you should tell her carefully at an opportune moment. You could couch it in terms of 'this is a nice story we tell young children but now you're old enough to know the truth'.

But beware that other parents might not appreciate her enlightening her younger friends and relatives. It's hard to get a child to keep a secret, as I've found. :oops:
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Re: Teaching Kids about Imaginary Friends

Postby Tempo Gain » 06 Aug 2012, 02:51

Mother Theresa wrote:
Moreover, she knows perfectly well that God's just a myth, that some people believe Jesus came back to life after death (ha ha, what a story) and others believed in Zeus and Apollo, and others in monkey gods and dragons and unicorns and mermaids and the like but, as I said, she's got a scientific mind and treats all those fanciful tales with a great deal of scepticism. She enjoys a good yarn, so she's taken great pleasure in reading the Bible and Greek myths and so forth, but I never told her those stories were true and she's got enough sense to know that they're not.

So I feel a little hypocritical perpetuating the Santa and TF myths. Admittedly, I don't expect to be able to do so much longer, but for now I'll keep sticking coins under her pillow and marveling with her about how she was able to do that without disturbing her and Santa will certainly bring good presents for us this Christmas, but. . .

How about you? Do you try to teach your kids to believe in truth and facts and reality? Do you also deceive them with fairy tales about imaginary friends? Ever ponder the apparent discrepancy?


Personally I think Santa etc is harmless, temporary fiction. It's not inconsistent with truth.

I think that the ability of a child who is still willing to believe in Santa, to fully understand concepts like "truth, facts and reality" is actually still rather limited. Any significant discrepancy could be more of a problem with the nature and timing of education about them, than with the myth itself.
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Re: Teaching Kids about Imaginary Friends

Postby tomthorne » 06 Aug 2012, 03:12

I rate you highly as a poster, MT, but I'm a little disappointed here.

Why would you choose to debunk Jesus before Father Christmas or the Tooth Fairy? Also, why should FC/TF be an issue when Jesus clearly wasn't? I can see how this thread could be viewed as an excuse by you to justify your atheism. I'm an atheist, by they way.

Anyway, as for telling your child the truth about Santa etc, I would do it immediately.
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Teaching Kids about Imaginary Friends

Postby headhonchoII » 06 Aug 2012, 06:15

Why all the angst? Kids will figure this stuff out anyway, oh to be a kid and believe in Santa again!
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Re: Teaching Kids about Imaginary Friends

Postby ChewDawg » 06 Aug 2012, 06:33

Why feel bad perpetuating a myth? It is, after all, based on a real person who had similar characteristics--notably putting gifts in shoes/socks (that Santa Claus is of course based on). The tooth fairy is a little tackier but Santa Claus? No problems.

There was a real one a long time ago. His name was Saint Nicholas and he was the patron saint of sailors, merchants, archers, thieves, children, and students in various countries. Lots of these demographics are important in Taiwan (with a large shipping industry, lots of merchants, lots of students/a number of thieves ), so I think Santa should be worshipped. :D

He had a reputation for secret gift-giving, such as putting coins in the shoes of those who left them out for him, and thus became the model for Santa Claus.


http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Saint_Nicholas
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Re: Teaching Kids about Imaginary Friends

Postby baberenglish » 06 Aug 2012, 07:09

Good ahead. Yes they will figure the myths out one day. But it is a basis for imaginative and creative thinking. Be careful about the God thingy. Depends on your own perception of that.
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Re: Teaching Kids about Imaginary Friends

Postby Mother Theresa » 06 Aug 2012, 09:25

Ok, first I want to state what should be obvious, that I don't claim to be always right or know some absolute truth. I'm just thinking through some thoughts. Second, sorry to housecat and anyone else who was offended by my comments on religion. Again, perhaps they're right and I'm wrong. I admit I don't know everything. I did find this comment interesting:

I take personal exception to your laughing criticism of my faith. I respect your lack of faith.


I don't mean to be disrespectful at all, but that's an interesting statement. Honestly. Would it be a legitimate response if one laughed at the beliefs of a:

Guy who believes in yetis, UFOs and that the US govt blew up the twin towers?
Catholic who believes birth control should be outlawed and women should not be priests?
Mormon who believes Jesus traveled to America and men should have many wives?
Scientologist who believes billions of people traveled to earth in a spacecraft from a distant galaxy millions of years ago?
Pastafarian who believes the world was created by the Flying Spaghetti Monster and pirates are absolute diving beings?
White Power advocate who believes their race is superior and others should be wiped out?
NAMBLA member who believes it's ok for adults to have sex with children?

Where does one draw the line? At some point is it acceptable to decry another's beliefs as nonsense, even if they sincerely believe them (and may be perfectly nice people despite their different beliefs)? Seriously, must one always respect all beliefs of other people?

But that's a digression. This thread wasn't intended to be about religion in particular. I was just pondering the other day, when the toothfairy slid coins under my daughter's pillow whether it's hypocritical for me to perpetuate her belief in that fairy and the kindly old santa clause, but otherwise take pleasure in her keen powers of observation, skepticism, scientific inquiry and joy of rational, logical explanations for the wonders of the world.

Take magic, for example. She knows (or believes, if you prefer) that tricks are all illusions and she takes pleasure in figuring out how it's done and trying to do it herself. Sure, she's deprived of the enchantment of believing that a guy turned a rabbit into an elephant, or whatever, but it's no less enchanting for her trying to figure out how he did it, and I take pleasure in her rational, inquisitive thought process.

So it occurred to me that perhaps it's a little hypocritical of me to perpetuate fantasies in her mind, even when she's skeptical and questioning, but I choose to continue deceiving her in those few areas, because they're "charming old traditions" or "magical moments of childhood" or whatever. It doesn't bother me greatly; it's just something I was thinking about.
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