Young Grinches, assemble! You better not pout, you better not cry… Or you’ll end up unhappy forever, apparently.
Have you ever heard the expression, ‘If the wind changes you’ll get stuck like that’? It’s a favourite of mums who want their kids to stop pulling stupid faces and old wives with tales up and down the country.
Well, it goes for the Christmas Spirit too, according to those in the know, who claim kids who don’t believe in Santa for very long are likely to be unhappier in adulthood than those who keep the magic alive.
Research indicates 85 per cent of four-year-olds say they believe in Santa, 65 per cent of those aged six still believe, but only a quarter of eight-year-olds said they believe in the existence of the round-bellied symbol of Christmas, according to a study published in The American Journal of Orthopsychiatry.
Scrooges might say the eight-year-olds should grow up.
But, if you suspend reality to believe in Santa long enough and let the magic of Christmas warm the cockles of your heart, you’ll probably be happier in adulthood, according to science.
Steve McKeown, Psychoanalyst, founder of MindFixers and owner of The McKeown Clinic told UNILAD:
If you believed in Santa for longer it is likely you will be happier in adulthood for it.
He added parents can have a hand in helping their kids along the road to happiness by ‘ensuring’ their ‘belief in Santa stays sacred for as long as possible’.
McKeown showed UNILAD his working:
By maintaining this innocent magical belief in Father Christmas and its traditions you are indeed developing not just psychologically but neurologically too.
This is because part of the adult brain is activated when you think about Christmas or see anything that is associated to the festivities and it makes you feel extra happiness with joy-inducing nostalgia.
Citing the so-called Christmas Spirit network in the brain, McKeown said:
Believing in Santa Claus for longer as a child allows us to condition our brains for many years to come.
Anything visually associated to Christmas simply becomes a pathway enabling us to evoke those old nostalgic magical feelings of the excitement we once felt as a child – which simply makes us happier!
So, what is this Christmas Spirit Network? Not a chainlink of elves holding hands and passing on presents down good kids’ chimneys, unfortunately, as idyllic as a picture as it may be.
It’s actually an area of the brain known as the ‘Christmas spirit network’ which is made up of several cortical zones, found by a team in Copenhagen using MRI scans.
Their study indicated those who have significantly higher activity in these cerebral areas are ‘unique’ to those who celebrate Christmas traditions and are far more positive, happy and joyful as opposed to those who don’t or who are neutral to Christmas.
However, there is a school of thought which would suggest installing magical beliefs – like believing in Father Christmas – into your children.
They argue fantastical thinking could ‘promote the development of an external locus of control which could propagate out-of-control types of beliefs’ such as a belief in the paranormal, for instance.
But McKeown says the argument is ‘questionable’, because using your imagination is a ‘normal and healthy part of child development’.
Anyway, he says, eventually the ‘Father Christmas myth’ will be figured out and ‘the truth revealed’ perhaps when worldly kids at school burst the bubble, or when you catch your dad snoozing off a tot of port with mince pie crumbs on his jumper come Christmas morning.
Most children stop believing in Father Christmas around the age of eight and they figure out the fact that a very fat man can’t fit down millions of chimneys in one single night by themselves without any big surprise reveal.
Furthermore, contrary to popular belief, there isn’t any evidence to suggest learning the truth about Father Christmas is distressing or damaging for children – ‘or that it leads to any distrust in the future’, McKeown adds.
So, McKeown argues:
Our children are also constantly subjected to media whereby fictional animals can speak and superheroes exist and save the world! So believing in the tooth fairy or the Easter Bunny amounts to the development of creativity which can only ever be positive!
It’s all a developmental process which helps them learn to distinguish imagination from reality, which is all learning to become an adult.
Making the extra effort to keep the magic alive for our children, at least until primary school age, should be a necessity for any parent to make those wonderful feelings last a lifetime even when they stop believing.
If it’s good enough for ‘Matilda’ in Miracle of 64th Street, it’s good enough for the other ankle-biters.
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A former emo kid who talks too much about 8Chan meme culture, the Kardashian Klan, and how her smartphone is probably killing her. Francesca is a Cardiff University Journalism Masters grad who has done words for BBC, ELLE, The Debrief, DAZED, an art magazine you’ve never heard of and a feminist zine which never went to print.