Redefining Santa for a New Generation

You better watch out, you better not cry,

You better not pout, I’m telling you why

Santa Claus is coming to town!

I am astounded at Christmas time, how much talk there is about being “good or bad,” “naughty or nice.”  At first I edited books while reading, skipping over those parts in stories I read my children.  I even deleted the above song from our Ipod.  But there is no escaping these messages at Christmastime!  As we bring up songs and traditions from a different stage of our human development, we are often also bringing up old forms of control.

And to be honest, I understand why a song like this may still feel compelling to some.  When our children are being their spirited, rowdy, raucous, exploring, “getting into trouble” little souls, it is easy to wish for something, anything that will help you gain some control.  This also comes at a time when we may be more stressed or busy than usual, and our children are responding to this and reflecting it in their behavior. So when Christmas gets a little ‘crazy,’ it’s easy for many parents to think of Santa as a helpful tool to get children to “behave.”

Unfortunately, when parents use this concept of a “good” or “bad”, children learn that Love is conditional.  They develop a “false confidence.  When they are praised, or on the “good” side of things, their joy and confidence is present, but it is always fleeting. They  learn there is always the possibility of being “bad” and fear that at some point they can lose the love they so need.

Redefining Santa means that we transform those old messages to actively support our children in knowing that they are worthy, lovable, beautiful and beloved, simply because of who they are; divine lights shining in this world.

Some ideas to Redefine Santa for a new generation are:

1) Be discerning about what types of activities you engage in to avoid strongly reinforcing these messages.

2) Use the old messages as an opportunity to transform that limited thinking.  When you read or hear such good/bad concepts, explain it as “how someone is acting;” whether they are acting like themselves, true to their good nature, or acting apart from their nature in fear.

3) Affirm that we are all filled with love and light, no matter how we are acting.  And that God’s love and peace are always available to us, which we feel when we open our hearts.  In our home, Santa is a reminder of the choice to be loving, giving and joyful in this world (based on the story of St. Nicolas).

4) Notice the way your children respond to the messages they hear and allow time and space for questions.  No need to focus on the old messages which can amplify them, just notice if your child has a reaction or question and let them know with your presence and attention that they can explore with you.

5) Laugh about the messages when you hear them. I often say things like, “Oh yeah, sometimes people have this idea that some kids are naughty, that’s so silly!”

Since we do not function from this conditional love mindset, my children are able to gloss over much of this old thought more easily than I might.  Or they may play it out in a silly way, exploring the general black and white or dreamlike thinking that is common for their age.

As with everything else, I trust their wisdom. I know they can work out many of their conflicts through play and their own connection to their souls. And I know when they are unsure they will come to me for more hugs, reassurance, or understanding.

I smile in the knowing that love is stronger than fear. That we can surrender control, and celebrate the truth and beauty that exists in the timeless messages of Love, Joy, Peace, Compassion and Hope that this season holds.

(p.s if you want to have some fun redefining Santa with your children, go to istockphoto and watch the funny santa videos!)

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