The Christmas season is always a great reminder of why kids are so awesome. In their minds, Santa is a real person, reindeer can actually fly and the North Pole houses the world’s oldest and most prolific toy manufacturing hub. As time goes on, your kids start picking up clues that can lead to a little bit of confusion – for example, how come the Santa at the mall looks a little different from the Santa at the Christmas parade? How did Santa get down the chimney with all of those presents? And for that matter, how does Santa travel around the entire globe in just one night?
All of these speculations can eventually lead your child to utter the fateful question: “Is Santa real?” Now here is where the rubber meets the road. Should you break the news now, wait until later, or just let things play out in a natural way? For many of us, the thought of breaking the news about Santa is heart-wrenching, but at the same time, we know that there will come a day when our children will find out the truth. It’s better if you’re the one to manage that disclosure versus having them find out on their own, with very little context or “smoothing over” to help ease some of the potential shock or disappointment.
So how exactly should you go about doing it? Unfortunately, there is no simple answer to this question; every child is different, so there won’t be any “one size fits all” response that can apply to every situation. True enough, the answer to your child’s question is “no,” but the way in which you communicate the information can make all the difference between a slight letdown and utter heartbreak.
One thing that you must consider before addressing the dreaded Santa question is the age of your child. If your child is a little older but they still believe in Santa, they could be made fun of by other kids who have “outgrown” the whole Santa thing, while younger children who have discovered the truth about Santa might get met with scowls or even ridicule from peers who still believe that Mr. Claus exists. According Dr. Marie Hartwell-Walker, a family therapist with more than 30 years of experience in the field, if your child has even raised the question, more than likely they’re already prepared to hear the truth. Their reactions may vary from disbelief to sadness to even anger, but there is a way to give them a more balanced perspective about Santa Claus that will help smooth things over.
Talk to them about the tradition behind Santa Claus, and that although the jolly old fellow from the North Pole isn’t real, he is based on an actual person named St. Nicholas, who lived in the fourth century and was known for his acts of extraordinary generosity towards those in need. Help them see that the idea behind Santa Claus is to keep the spirit of giving and generosity alive, which is why we celebrate Christmas with gift-giving to this day. If you focus on these positive aspects of Christmas, as well as the “why” behind Christmas, you’ll help your child see that the meaning and purpose of this holiday transcends any one person. As you explain to them what the true spirit of Christmas is all about, they’ll begin to see that there’s a little bit of Santa Claus in all of us.