• Sun. Jul 21st, 2024

What is the average age children stop believing in Santa


Dec 23, 2023

Psychologists have revealed the average age that children stop believing in Santa – and offered advice to parents who aren’t sure when to break the news.

Dr Candice Mills, a psychologist at the University of Texas, led a study in which 48 children aged between six and 15 answered questions about how they discovered Father Christmas was not real and how it made them feel.

Their parents also shared their perspectives and details of how they promoted Santa, while a second part of the study saw 383 adults reflect on their shift to finding the truth.

The study revealed the average age children stopped believing in the bearded sleigh-rider was eight.

“If parents want to avoid their child experiencing negative emotions upon discovering the truth about Santa, it may be useful to be aware that the average age a child becomes sceptical about Santa is roughly age seven or eight,” the psychologists said.

“There is some evidence that children who are older when they discover the truth tend to be more likely to feel only negative emotions upon discovering it.”

Pic: iStock

Most participants said they were told by someone else that Santa didn’t exist, the study found, while some reported scepticism came simply by learning to think logically on their own.

Parens may wonder which method is best: should kids be let down gently with a chat, or left to figure it out on their own?

The study suggests that finding a middle ground may be the best way to avoid upset.

About a third of children and half of adults reported some negative emotions upon discovering the truth, especially when their parents had heavily promoted Santa’s existence.

Adults who reported feeling only negative emotions tended to be older when they discovered the truth and learned it abruptly, the study found.

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The psychologists said: “Our results suggest the best way to transition to disbelief for children is through changes in their experiences, lowering of the amount of promotion, and letting children gradually conclude on their own that Santa Claus is not real.”

Basically, you don’t have to sit your kids down and have “the talk” – but perhaps there comes a time when leaving milk and cookies by the door to aid Santa’s energy levels – or carrots for Rudolph – is pushing it a step too far.

There may come a time where leaving Santa snacks is doing more harm than good. Pic: iStock

The study also says that leaving children to discover the truth about Mr Claus may help them develop their brains as they learn to ask questions and gather evidence, practising “intellectual humility.”

But if yout child has reached double digits and is still asking you about the white-haired gentleman from the North Pole, it may be time to intervene – they clearly aren’t cut out for detective work.

The good news is, the vast majority of kids who go through Santa heartbreak aren’t badly affected in the long-term, the psychologists said.

“At some point, children become sceptical of Santa’s existence – but until then, they tend to enjoy the ride.”


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