Santa Claus is a so-called “white” lie embraced by Western society. Every year, when Christmas is near, children from far and wide write letters and sit on Santa’s lap explaining what they want their presents to be. There comes a time, however, when they need to grow up and accept the truth. When is that time and how are parents supposed to handle it?
Santa Claus is a representation of magic in a child’s life, a phenomenon that children strongly believe in. Children begin to face obstacles and difficulties as they grow up, so it can be important to keep this belief alive in order to provide them with the comforting thought that magic exists and can help them to achieve anything. Not only that, but it encourages them to develop their imagination as they believe there are no limits to what is possible. Over time, children start to understand the difference between reality and the fantasy world of creatures and special powers. Santa is one illusion that children cling on to for some time though as it provides some consolation for the fact that magic may not be all around all the time – it is at least at Christmas. The myth of Santa tends to serve as a last barrier between the protected child and the harsh world outside its happy bubble. That is one reason why the world spends such vast amounts of money on portraying the image of Santa and keeping him alive in children’s heads.
But when should you consider that your child is old enough to be ready for the truth? In many cases, when children develop the ability of logical thinking, they come to the conclusion that the stories are too hard to believe themselves. For that reason, it might be unnecessary to sit them down at a particular age to tell them the truth, unless you are directly confronted.
One difficult scenario to face is when your child finds out the truth from someone else. In that case, children feel like they cannot trust their parents because they have been lying to them their whole life. You have to find a way to calm your child down and explain why it was so important to misguide them. Try to ask some questions yourself first like “Do you believe that Santa Claus is real?” If you don’t get a straight answer but more questions instead, it is time that you come clean.
What troubles parents the most is what exactly they are going to say when they face this problem. A great strategy is to tell the child that they are now growing up and slowly becoming a young man or woman, and therefore they are old enough to learn one of the most important truths in life. This instills a sense of pride and somewhat softens the blow of the news. If you have younger children, explain that they still deserve to believe and that the child (now a grown person) is responsible for keeping the secret a little longer.
Once the deed is done, be prepared for any and all reactions – sadness, anger, relief, disbelief and so on. Just do what you usually do when your child is feeling these emotions and comfort them. Keep in mind that probably the biggest blow from the fact that Santa isn’t real according to a child is that Christmas is ruined. So do treat them as grown people and explain how you’ve been buying the presents all these years so Christmas will continue to be every bit as amazing as the ones before.
As an alternative strategy, it is possible to gradually drop your child hints from a very young age and then they won’t have a singular shocking moment, but will more gradually get used to the idea over time. When they develop their logical thinking capabilities, many children realize that the story cannot be true, but they still choose to believe in it, so you would not necessarily be spoiling their idea of Christmas by adopting this approach.
Christmas doesn’t have to stop being magical just because your child knows the truth about Santa. You can still make the season sparkle, getting them involved in decorating the house, making the food, buying the presents and telling them stories about Santa and his helpers. The stories are still fascinating to children when they know the truth, and can still get their imaginations going. In fact, even adults can still be captivated by the magic of Christmas, if we let ourselves.
There is this wonderful letter going around that gives parents a great way to explain santa to their kids while trying to keep the spirit of Christmas alive in their hearts.