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Santa Claus and custody: who decides what to tell the kids?

As parents, we know that Santa Claus isn’t real. We know that there isn’t a jolly man who travels around the world leaving presents under the tree for the children that have been good and coal in the stockings of those that haven’t. We all know this, but parents are divided on whether or not to share this fact with their young children.

The myth of Santa Clause is an important tradition in many families. It is a way for some parents to celebrate the innocence of youth, to preserve that element of magic. It could be considered a cultural custom alike to other characters of folklore. It can even teach kids about kindness; kindness and honesty should be a priority because you never know who might be watching -- and important even when no one is.

On the other end of the spectrum is the belief that this myth has no place in a child’s life. The idea of Santa Claus cannot be scientifically proven. In some households, parents are concerned that perpetuating this “magical” idea could confuse children. A child may believe myths such as this one only because their parents say it is so.

Between these views are a multitude of others, including a combination of the truth and the myth. Dr. Devdutt Pattanaik said that a myth “is subject truth revealed through stories, symbols and rituals.”

We use Santa Claus here as the example, but our children’s belief system is based on many of these issues. Whether the concern is over religion, science, educational path, morality, sexuality or any other matter, the decision is important for parents. The authority to make these decisions that affect a child’s upbringing is called legal custody in the arena of family law.

A child custody agreement in Minnesota will designate which parent will have this authority. In some cases, one parent may be able to unilaterally make decisions. In other cases, the parents must come together to make a decision. In an agreement, parents can even define certain parameters that both will follow moving forward.

Source: Wonder Woman, “Let your child believe in Santa,” Jane Gopalakrishnan, Dec. 2, 2013

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