The tree is trimmed, stockings are hung and presents are under the tree — all clearly labeled, “Love, Mom and Dad.”
“It’s disconcerting when people say something is real, and then it’s not real,” Alexandra Fung, 37, tells The Post. The Chicago-based mom of three, who runs the parenting website Upparent, remembers feeling “shocked” and “betrayed” when she learned the truth about Santa around age 10. So when it comes to her own kids, “I want to prioritize the truth,” says Fung.
In an emerging parenting trend, some moms and dads are refusing to play society’s little reindeer games: They’re telling their kids from the get-go that Santa Claus isn’t real. Some, like Fung, are turned off by the dishonesty. (Kristen Bell and Dax Shepard recently made headlines for telling their daughters that Santa wasn’t real because they don’t lie to their kids.) Other parents cite financial necessity, moral qualms, religion or a distaste for the commercialization of Christmas.
“I never wanted the whole season to focus on the material aspect of the holiday,” says Penelope Guzman, a 41-year-old photographer based in Little Neck, NY. But she still wants her children, ages 6 and 9, to get into the spirit of the season. Instead of setting out milk and cookies for an imaginary gift-bestower, they celebrate the historical legend of St. Nicholas, a third-century man who provided a dowry for three poor sisters so they could marry.
“I liked that St. Nicholas was philanthropic,” says Guzman. “Making St. Nicholas ‘real’ in our family was a way that our kids could understand our beliefs and not feel left out.”
For Chicago dad of five Courtney Fong, the choice to ignore Santa was primarily religious: He doesn’t want his kids to think that if Santa isn’t real, Jesus may not be real, either. But he also doesn’t love the moral and work ethic the Santa legend imparts.
“What I don’t like about Santa is this idea that you’re only doing things for the reward,” says the 39-year-old lawyer. “I don’t like the idea of Santa being this all-seeing guy who can see whether you’ve been good or bad and deny gifts based on that reason.”
‘I don’t have the time, money or energy to participate in what America’s expectation of Santa is.’
He’d rather see his children develop their own moral compass, rather than follow standards set by, say, a boss, later in life — or a guy in a red velvet suit.
Michelle, a 30-year-old mom in Portland, Ore., says that she finds the Santa myth “classist.”
“It has always bothered me that we encourage children to believe in Santa Claus knowing that some of their parents simply can’t go all out,” says the digital marketer, who has told her 3-year-old that Santa is just pretend. “If all children believe in Santa and one kid gets a brand new iPad from ‘Santa’ and one child simply gets candy, what does that lead that child to believe?”
Megan Sedlacek, a 34-year-old mom of two, agrees — and frankly finds all the ho-ho-hooplah exhausting.
“I don’t have the time, money or energy to participate in what America’s expectation of Santa is,” says Sedlacek, who adds that she’s uncomfortable with the consumer aspect of the Santa experience.
No matter the reason they put Santa on the naughty list, one thing unites these parents: making sure their kids can keep a secret so they don’t spoil the season for their peers — or incite the wrath of Santa fanatics, as did a substitute teacher in Montville, NJ, when she recently told a classroom of first-graders that Santa wasn’t real. (The school’s principal sent an apology letter to the parents about the “sensitive nature of [the] announcement.”)
At first, Sedlacek had to plead with her 5-year-old son Hunter to keep mum. “For a while, Hunter would go to kids and be like, ‘Santa isn’t real.’ And I’d be standing behind him, going ‘Shh, shh, quiet.’ ”
Today, after having had a few conversations about respect, belief systems and letting other families have their fun, Hunter knows to keep the intel on the DL — and is even teaching his sister Hazel, 3, to keep quiet.
Fong has similarly had to run parental interference. “Our 4-year-old daughter loves to talk,” he says. “So when I heard that Santa was coming to her nursery school, I pulled the teacher aside to let her know that we don’t do Santa in our house, but to keep a close eye on our daughter and make sure to pull her aside if she started saying anything suspicious to other kids.”
Cecilia Hilkey, 44, a mom of two teen daughters in Corvallis, Ore., wasn’t raised with Santa herself because her parents wanted Christmas to focus on Jesus. So when her kids were young, she created “the Santa game.”
“If our relatives were coming, I would remind my daughters, ‘Oh, let’s play the Santa game and help add to the fun,’ ” says Hilkey.
Regardless of what parents teach their children about the man in red, experts say they won’t cause long-term psychological damage.
“To my knowledge, there are no clinical recommendations regarding Santa,” says David Anderson, Ph.D., a psychologist at the Child Mind Institute in Midtown East. “Young kids blur the line between fantasy and reality all the time, and Santa can very much live in this world, and then be left behind as a child develops a more realistic view of the world.”
And Fung, whose 9- and 11-year-olds have aged out of Santa territory, has no regrets.
“Now that we have a 1-year-old and are doing this all again, I can say that we don’t miss Santa at all.”
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