(This is a reprint from my Sacramento Cyber Safety Examiner column on Examiner.com)
A recent Mamapedia post, “4 ways social media is ruining Christmas,” expressed dismay at the challenges social media present parents who are confronted with different beliefs about Santa. According to this mom blogger, two main ways social media appears to be ruining Christmas are the sanctimonious posts of parents who want their children to believe in Santa complaining about people who don’t support them, while others are adamant that Santa is a myth that we should just get over it.
And while this dilemma of justifying what you believe or, in the case of Santa, what you choose to encourage your child to believe is not new, social media definitely intensifies this simple fact people believe what they want. And the sooner our children realize this fact of life the better. Fighting over beliefs, rather than respecting the beliefs of others, is the origin of primal conflict that inspires anxiety and can lead to hostility if we allow it.
The cyberbullying problem, for example, is connected to this human urge to attack the things that are perceived as different, isolated or weak. Therefore, preparing youth for social media requires us to teach them to think for themselves and to take responsibility for their own thoughts and actions, on and off line.
For parents who are concerned that the exposure to social media posts that promote Santa beliefs that conflict with those of your family, consider this: children want to believe in things that make them feel secure and happy –which is connected to something bigger than themselves. If the Santa tradition is an integral part of your family Christmas holiday season, then when challenged about the “reality of Santa” encourage your child to accept that other people simply do not share your family’s beliefs and traditions. Another person’s unbelief does not have to diminish your own belief unless you allow it.
In this way, we can offer the Santa experience at Christmastime as an object lesson in choosing and taking responsibility for your own beliefs. If you and your children find presents under the tree from Santa, there is nothing anyone can post or tweet to change your minds about the generosity of the human spirit expressed by the Santa in your home.
And it is important that you as a parent understand where your beliefs originate and your motive in defending the values you want to instill in your child. If your belief that Santa is “phony” or “too commercial” and not something you want to promote as a part of your Christmas experience, then it will be important to communicate your “opt out” with respect for those who choose to “opt in”. The same thing goes for believers of the Santa tradition.
About: We are a non-profit education center founded in Roseville, CA to strengthen the parent-child bond in a hyper-connected world. Our mission is to restore families with the mustard seed of faith that declares liberty already belongs to the soul because one God, the Creator of all humanity, grants every human being intelligence and free will to choose what to believe, and that is power that can never be taken, but is easily surrendered to the bully, the drug or the device. To that end, ten percent of all proceeds are donated to prison ministries. Your donations are greatly appreciated. (Donations are payable to Banana Moments Foundation).
Joanna Jullien is an educator and speaker on strengthening the parent-child relationship in a cyber-powered world. Trained in behavioral science at U.C. Berkeley, she is a mother of two grown sons, an author of books on parenting, growing up and family life in the network culture, and produces the Sacramento Cyber Safety Examiner column on Examiner.com.