No month contains as much excitement and magic for children as the month of December: Saint Nicholas walking with his horse on the roof, Father Christmas flying with his sleigh through the sky, pulled by flying reindeer, darkness before bedtime and sparkling lights everywhere... All this magic is great, but it also involves tension. It’s precisely because of this element that parents start wondering how much excitement and magic is good for their child. How do I answer questions about Saint Nicholas or Father Christmas? In this blog we’d like to tell a bit more about magical thinking. This may help you deal with magic in the month of December.
From the start of their lives, children marvel at everything in the world. When they are about 3 years old, magical thinking also begins. Magical thinking is a vital phase in a child’s development. It stimulates the imagination, while fantasy also contributes to creativity and empathy, among other things.
Children's thinking skills, however, have not yet developed to the point where they can distinguish between fantasy and reality. Children need to understand how the world works. If they don't understand something, they come up with a nice story of their own. In their eyes, everything they see is real and so is Saint Nicholas. But is it wrong not telling our children the truth?
You don’t really need to worry about that, because even if you tell the truth, at this stage children believe what they think they see. That’s their reality.
A very good example is when a father or mother dresses up as Saint Nicholas in front of their children. As soon as they are wearing the entire outfit, they see Saint Nicholas and mum or dad is gone for a while.
Magical thinking, however, can also create tension and fear. During the festive season, magical thinking plays a very significant role. This implies that children also experience extra tension during this period. Going along with the magical thinking is fine and important, but at the same time it’s essential to keep a keen eye on your child.
How do you do this? Always take fear and tension seriously. If the tension becomes too much, it’s important to show understanding and perhaps even to step out of the situation for a while. Go for a walk or bike ride through the woods, on the moors or along the beach. Movement, the outdoors and nature offer peace of mind and space, literally as well as figuratively.
From the age of about 6, children learn to better understand cause and effect. They will make the correct connections and understand what’s possible and what isn’t. From that moment on, the difficult questions may come. How can Saint Nicholas possibly walk on the roof with his horse? How is it possible that he is everywhere at the same time? Can Santa's reindeer really fly? When your child comes up with this kind of questions, you can ask them the same question. Ask, for instance: ‘What do you think? Can a reindeer really fly?’ Together you can try and find the proper answers. Even if your child is a bit older and is in this phase, or is sensitive to tension, this festive season can cause even extra tension. That's why you should try to find the right time to discuss your child’s questions, following him or her in this matter.
We hope that, with these tips, you’ll enjoy a magical December month with manageable excitement. If you, as a parent or carer, are looking for more concrete tips to create and maintain peace and quiet during this sometimes hectic period, you can always contact our pedagogical staff.